Indonesian warships and warplanes in the waters north of Natuna Island in January 2020 – Photo: REUTERS
Commander of the Indonesian I Fleet, Rear Admiral Arsyad Abdullah, confirmed that five more warships and patrol aircraft have been deployed to Natuna to ensure security for the region.
Arsyad also confirmed that Chinese and American naval ships have been spotted near the Natuna Islands recently.
According to Rear Admiral Arsyad, the ships “have not caused any disturbance” and are currently still in international waters.
However, Indonesia is still wary of the moves of foreign ships in the area. General Arsyad stressed that the country’s military will have “zero tolerance” against acts of aggression in the North Natuna Sea – the sea named by Indonesia and making maritime claims.
China does not claim the Natuna Islands, but Beijing’s absurd nine-dash line claim overlaps with the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) Indonesia established around Natuna.
Also on September 16, the spokesman of the I Fleet, Lieutenant Colonel Laode Muhammad, reassured the Indonesian fishermen. CNN quoted Laode as saying that due to the disputed waters, foreign ships also appeared more, especially Chinese ships.
However, this lieutenant colonel affirmed that fishermen around Natuna island “do not need to be afraid of Chinese ships” because the Indonesian navy regularly ensures their security and safety.
In 2017, Indonesia renamed the waters north of Natuna Island the North Natuna Sea, as part of an effort to counter China’s claims.
In January last year, Indonesia dispatched fighter jets after Chinese fishing boats escorted by coast guard ships rushed into the area.
The moves to send more ships to Natuna this time took place after Indonesian fishermen worried about encountering a group of Chinese warships on September 13. A local fishermen’s association then called on the Indonesian military to take action to protect them.