indonesia corners

indonesia corners

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Seize China Fishing Boat in Natuna EEZ, No Compromise About It

Indonesia has long settled the boundary around Natuna EEZ in accordance with UNCLOS with its neighboring countries. The boundary is now there firmly set up and recognized internationally except China. Indonesia regards China’s unilateral claim on the part of Natuna EEZ as their fishing ground is baseless. For Indonesia, holding negotiation with any country who tries to challenge its EEZ  is useless.

China has a dual system in running their country. In dealing with government affairs, it's Communist Party who takes the charge while in business the party allows the government to adopt liberalism. The Communist Party knows that their Nine Dash-lines product will confront the ASEAN countries' interest in South China Sea (SCS) while at the same time are willing to keep the business relationship with ASEAN countries intact. 

China doesn’t seem confident in what they do in Natuna water. They are always escorting their fishing boats with their coastguards, the funniest thing that a country has ever done. This is exactly what happened related to incidents taking in Natuna EEZ. The last incident occurred on June 18, 2016, when the Navy's KRI Imam Bonjol 383 chased twelve Chinese fishing vessels a firing towards one of them (Yueyandong Yu 19038) after giving several warnings in concordance with the standard procedure. The warship commander stood firm and simply ignored the Chinese coastguards that tried to interfere with the vessel seizing.

The maneuver of so many China fishing boats could be suspected to test the water rather than solely catching the fish. Having faced with such a situation, Indonesia must show their stern position to the world that Indonesia would never back off no matter the provocation comes from. For Indonesia, the integrity of its EEZ is a matter of principle and will defend it at all cost.

Indonesia should be very cautious towards the sincerity of China's statement on their recognition on the Natuna Islands as an integral part of Indonesia territory. It is now clear that China recognizes only the islands but not their surrounding water. The issue becomes more dangerous as China had issued a position paper in December 2014, that the dispute in SCS was basically a matter of sovereignty, not exploitation rights. Does China have a hidden agenda that sometime in the future they will claim the Dash-lines crossing Natuna EEZ as the delimitation of their sovereignty?

Being aware of China aggressiveness in imposing its claim, Indonesia could no longer maintain its neutral position. Indonesia should not behave like an ostrich and being selfish ignoring their fellows ASEAN desperately confronting head-to-head with China in SCS. ASEAN should stand united against China and as the biggest nation among the community, Indonesia should stand in front. 

One example of the embarrassing diplomatic move was what happened in ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Kunming, China, June 14, 2016. It was sad to see that ASEAN was broken apart letting China take the leading role pressuring ASEAN countries to adopt Beijing’s stance in SCS. China has been keeping eyes on the gas-rich area in SCS and possibly in Natuna water as well. Their claim on the right to exploit marine resources in Natuna sea could be extended to the right to exploit continental shelf beneath. This suspicion is logic if we look to what they did to build an oil platform in Vietnam offshore in 2014 which they claimed as theirs.

China claimed that the Nine Dash-Lines was marine empire boundary established in the era of the Ming Dynasty around 12th century. Historically, it is doubted that China ever ruled the waves imposing their power even on SCS. China was never becoming a maritime country and even if they were so, it should occur in a very short period. Indonesia, on the other hand, was a maritime nation for a long time. At the era of Sriwijaya in the 8th century and Majapahit in the 14th century, the Royal Navy conquered what is now known as Indonesian archipelago, Malaysia included,  Gajah Mada, one of the great Majapahit warlords,  sent big expeditions far west to Madagascar  (the island bears his name) and some in smaller groups had sailed up north as far Taiwan and Japan. The people in Sulawesi and the eastern part of Indonesia had traditionally sailed off far to the east across the Pacific Ocean reaching as far as New Zealand in the south, Hawaii and Eastern Islands in the remote east, the vast area that was known as the world of Tagaroa, the name of their common marine god. 

The wooden boat generation, known as Phinisi, which was used by Indonesian ancestors still survive until today going around across the archipelago. Several expeditions have been done using the replica of the ancient wooden boats heading to Madagascar and just recently to Japan proving that such journeys were not pure historical tales. Indonesia has more justification than what China did in claiming its maritime empire. Indonesia could include a much wider area by drawing Nine Thousand Dash-Lines covering those historical maritime areas, SCS included. However, Indonesia was not that crazy to seriously pose such a notorious claim.

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