Indonesia: Diplomatic protests following Chinese activities in Natuna waters

On the 30 December 2019 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia formally protested against Chinese vessels allegedly involved in IUU fishing activities in Indonesia’s EEZ (referred to by Indonesia as the ‘North Natuna Sea’), as well as the presence of a Chinese Coast Guard vessel. Indonesia’s response included summoning the Chinese Ambassador to Jakarta and submitting a diplomatic memorandum of protest.

The Indonesian position repeated its rejection of the Chinese ‘nine-dash line’, reiterated China’s obligations to comply with both UNCLOS (as a state party) and the South China Sea Arbitration Award (UNCLOS, Annex VII, Article 11; South China Sea Arbitration Award, Paragraph 1200) and reiterated Indonesia’s position that Indonesia does not have any overlapping jurisdiction with China in the South China Sea. On 1 January 2020subsequent statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia rejected the claims by China to historic maritime waters as without legal basis, as well as any Chinese references to ‘relevant waters’ as unrecognized in UNCLOS. “Indonesia Urges the People’s Republic of China to explain the legal basis and clear boundaries regarding the claims of the PRC in [the South China Sea] based on UNCLOS 1982” (Paragraph 3 [in Indonesian]).

In November 2015 a Chinese spokesperson stated “[t]he Chinese side has no objection to Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Natuna islands”. To date, in response to the December 2019 incident a Chinese spokesperson (31 December 2019; 2 January 2020) has repeated its general position on the South China Sea without further detail.

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