'China trying to corner Indonesia'

A senior government adviser says he is concerned China is trying to drag Indonesia into the dispute over the contested South China Sea.

China seems to be attempting to "drag" Indonesia into the ongoing dispute over the South China Sea by repeatedly undertaking illegal fishing in the archipelago, a senior Indonesian government adviser says.

A high-level meeting was held in Jakarta on Monday between the country's security minister, foreign minister, navy and military to discuss tensions with China over the weekend.

The Indonesian navy opened fire on a Chinese fishing boat in the South China Sea on Saturday and detained its seven-man crew after it was discovered off the Natuna islands, part of the archipelago's Riau Islands province.

Hasjim Djalal, a former UN ambassador and senior adviser to the Indonesian minister for maritime affairs, was also at the meeting and said it was within Indonesia's rights to police the area as it was in its exclusive economic zone.

"We're authorised to manage its content," Professor Djalal told reporters.

He said both countries wanted to "live in peace and prosper", but he was concerned the incident might be an attempt by China to "corner" Indonesia.

"China is in dispute with the Philippines, with Vietnam, with Malaysia and Brunei ... it seems that China might be trying to drag Indonesia into this dispute.

"We don't want that," he said.

Indonesian Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti meanwhile tweeted: "The Indonesian navy is correct to secure our sea sovereignty.... The shooting must be done in accordance of procedure."

The South China Sea is a contested zone.

Rich in fishing stocks and believed to be home to extensive oil and gas deposits, it has become the subject of overlapping claims from six Asian nations.

Indonesia, however, is not a claimant in the region and has consistently repeated its wish to remain neutral.

But it's not the first time the two countries have sparred over the region.

In March, Indonesia summoned the Chinese ambassador after it picked up a Chinese fishing boat illegally trawling off Natuna and arrested eight crew members.

Two months later, in May, an Indonesian frigate fired shots at a Chinese trawler when it refused to stop fishing in the region.

China, meanwhile, claims the area off Natuna is its traditional fishing zone.

2 min read
Published 20 June 2016 at 5:50pm
Source: AAP