Jakarta is contemplating the possibility of taking China before an international court if Beijing refuses to back down on its claims over the majority of the South China Sea and part of Indonesian territory through dialogue. Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea with a nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime hub of Southeast Asia and includes the Natuna islands, which are claimed by Indonesia.
The Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the disputed waters, and the Philippines has already taken China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. However, Beijing has refused to recognize the decision made there, calling it null and void.
Indonesia rejects Chinese claims
Indonesia says that the Chinese claim over parts of the Natuna islands has no legal basis whatsoever.
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“We are working very hard on this. We are trying to approach the Chinese,” Luhut Panjaitan told reporters. “We would like to see a solution on this in the near future through dialogue, or we could bring it to the International Criminal Court.”
Panjaitan might have mistakenly told reporters about taking the country’s grievances to the International Criminal Court considering that it only deals with the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. It appears that he meant the Permanent Court of Arbitration as the international tribunal to solve the South China Sea issue. The security chief also stated that Indonesia is not out to take any violent action in a bid to find a solution before stating that many other countries are equally affected by the issue.
“We don’t want to see any power projection in this area. We would like a peaceful solution by promoting dialogue. The nine-dash line is a problem we are facing, but not only us. It also directly (impacts) the interests of Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines.”
Moreover, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir says that Jakarta does not recognize the Chinese nine-dash line as it is not in line with international law.
Indonesian warships patroling South China Sea
The recent statements made by officials in Indonesia were followed by the deployment of seven Indonesian warships to the archipelago, which the country’s navy spokesman, Commodore M Zainudin, stated is a “routine patrol program carried out by the navy to safeguard Natuna waters.” Moreover, he denied that this action was taken in light of the recent escalation of the situation in South China Sea.
“We are not involved in the conflict in South China Sea. We only safeguard our sovereignty and NKRI (Unitary State of Indonesia) defense,” he said.
He added that not all of the seven ships will be stationed in the Natuna waters.
“Only three ships would standby in the Natuna waters while the four others would be in Tanjung Uban naval base. They will in turn conduct patrols,” he said.
The navy spokesman also revealed that in the Indonesian eastern region, the navy has deployed more than 20 ships to protect Ambalat and the Arafuru Sea, while 20 ships are protecting the Malacca Strait, Natuna waters and others. However, this is not the first time the Indonesian government has taken precautionary measures in light of Chinese activity. In September, the defense ministry announced that it would improve the infrastructure in Natuna, which included runway improvements and the installation of a new radar system.
“We will reinforce Natuna by deploying personnel from the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force,” Defense Minister Ryacudu said.
As the South China Sea issue drags on, it has become clear that with the passage of time, all the claimants, who for now have struggled to stand up to China, will one by one take matters into their own hands. However, it remains to be seen whether China will easily crumble under such pressure considering the fact that it has already seized a large area of the disputed waters, something that might not be easy to undo.