Updated: Jan 20
Indonesian Military Says Chinese Vessels Left Disputed Waters
JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia's military said on Thursday that Chinese coast guard vessels and fishing boats had left disputed waters in the western reaches of the South China Sea following a visit by President Joko Widodo to assert his nation's sovereignty.
During recent weeks, Jakarta summoned China's ambassador after the coast guard and fishing boats entered waters around the northern Natuna islands, where Indonesia has established an exclusive economic zone.
Indonesia stepped up air and sea patrols in the area, and on Wednesday Widodo visited one of the islands to drive home the message that it was Indonesian territory, at which point, his military said, the Chinese vessels quit the area.
"From the observation of our planes, they're no longer there," military spokesman Major General Sisriadi told Reuters on Thursday. "They left as soon as the president arrived on the Natuna."
Nursyawal Embun, director of sea operations at the Maritime Security Agency, said, however, that one ship -- HAIJING35111 -- was still in the "Indonesian continental shelf waters."
China has not claimed the Natuna islands themselves, but says it has nearby fishing rights within a self-proclaimed Nine-Dash Line that includes most of the energy rich South China Sea - a claim disputed by some Southeast Asian countries and isn't recognized internationally.
In 2017, Indonesia renamed the northern section of its exclusive economic zone as the North Natuna Sea, as part of a push back against China's maritime territorial ambitions.
On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing and Jakarta are in contact through diplomatic channels to "deal with differences and uphold peace and stability in bilateral relations and the region".
Sisriadi said Indonesia's navy would continue operations in the area.
(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Stanley Widianto; Editing by Gayatri Suroyo and Simon Cameron-Moore)
Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.
AFP: Dozens of Chinese vessels spotted near Pag-asa Island
MANILA, Philippines — Chinese fishing vessels continue to stay near Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Western Command chief Vice Adm. Rene Medina said Wednesday there were 38 stationary Chinese boats surrounding the sandbars of Pag-asa as of Tuesday night.
There are three sandbars between Pag-asa and the Philippine-claimed but China-controlled Zamora (Subi) Reef, which the Chinese had developed into a massive military outpost.
Pag-asa is the only outpost occupied by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands with a civilian community.
There were no Chinese boats spotted near Kota and Panata islands, Medina told Inquirer.net, referring to two other Philippine-occupied outposts in the West Philippine Sea.
He said they continue to keep track of the number of sightings of foreign vessels within its jurisdiction and forward it to the higher-ups for appropriate diplomatic action.
The presence of these Chinese boats near Pag-asa Island has notably increased since 2018 after the Philippines began the construction of a beaching ramp and sheltered port on the island.
The Philippine government in 2019 had filed several diplomatic protests on the sustained presence of these Chinese vessels, believed to be part of a maritime militia.
In a report to Congress last year, the Department of National Defense (DND) said China is likely to continue using its maritime militia to gain an advantage in the West Philippine Sea without provoking a conventional military response.
“There is high possibility that Beijing will continue the employment of these vessels, which could be used for asymmetric warfare of sea control and sea denial, such as swarming tactic and ramming of other claimants’ vessels in the area, enabling it to make advancements in the maritime region without causing tension in the area,” DND said.
China is using its fishing vessels to discreetly conduct surveillance, search and rescue operations, and provide assistance to law enforcement agencies, it added.