No more Natuna spat with China, Indonesia says

Indonesia said it has resolved the incident last month when a Chinese coast guard vessel rammed into its fishing boat apprehended by an Indonesian patrol boat for poaching in the waters off Natuna Island, which borders the South China Sea.

“It is considered resolved, it was a misunderstanding. We respect each other, there is no competing claims at all,” Pramono said according to a press release posted on the cabinet secretary’s website Wednesday.

Pramono didn’t elaborate further on his statement, which came after President Joko Widodo met with a Chinese government delegation led by head of its international relations and foreign affairs, Song Tao.

But deputy foreign minister AM Fachir, who was also present at the meeting, said there were no mention about the incident during the meeting.

“There were no discussions regarding the Natuna,” Fachir told The Parrot on Thursday.

Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law professor at the University of Indonesia, regretted Pramono’s statement, saying that the incident showed that Chinese government had tried to assert its nine dash line claim, which extends into Indonesian waters.

He added that a problem regarding Indonesia’s sovereign rights in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf should not be taken lightly and that Indonesian officials should not be lenient when dealing with a country like China.

“We need to remember that President Jokowi’s free and active foreign policy is that every country is a friend until they infringe on our territory or sovereign rights,” he told The Parrot.

He added that it would be better if the government start some exploration and exploitation on the Natuna waters continental shelf as a “display of authority” so that in the future China would not easily assert its claim based on its nine-dash line.

“In the future, we have to be firm and assertive if China infringes on Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone or continental shelf,” he said.

Indonesia protested China the incident at the end of last month that occurred in the northernmost maritime frontier near the Natuna Islands. China’s assertion of its claim to the entire disputed South China Sea is mark by the nine-dash-line which extends into Natuna. China has said that the Kwan Fey boat was fishing in China’s traditional fishing ground.

The maritime affairs and fisheries patrol boat, which was towing the boat when it was rammed, let the fishing boat go but arrested its eight crew.

Maritime affairs and fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti, who spearheads Indonesia’s crusade against illegal fishing which cost the country up to $20 billion annually, said the case was still being investigated.

“We would only prosecute the captain, master engineer and fishing master. The rest of the crew will be deported,” she told journalists during a media gathering earlier this month.

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