Indonesia’s “significant” comments in the South China Sea are not a sign of an “emerging alliance” with the United States

As a non-claimant country, Indonesia has often avoided direct confrontation ChinaDarmawan said, adding that mentioning China in a joint statement with the United States was an “important gesture” for Indonesia.

In light of the recent maritime incidents between the Philippine and Chinese coast guards in the South China Sea, Dermawan said the Jakarta statement urging Beijing to comply with international law is “important and necessary.”

“It is important to others ASEAN Darmawan said: “Countries should stand together in condemning China’s resolute actions,” referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
A Philippine supply boat cruises past the Chinese coast guard as it attempts to head towards shallow waters in the disputed South China Sea on August 22. Photo: AP
On August 5, a Chinese coast guard vessel was used water cannon Against a Philippine boat carrying supplies for troops aboard a warship Manila has been stationed on the shallow waters of the South China Sea since 1999.

John Bradford, senior fellow for international affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations in Indonesia, said the joint statement, by specifically naming China, reflects Indonesia’s willingness to “raise the bar” on its support for the broader coalition of countries standing up for human rights. Southeast Asian Claimants.

Last week, the United States, Japan and Australia conducted joint naval exercises in the South China Sea off the western waters of the Philippines. On Monday, the Super Garuda Shield, an annual military exercise initiated by Indonesia and the United States, kicked off in East Java. It is scheduled to run until mid-September and will feature 5,000 participants from countries including Australia, Britain, Japan and Singapore.

We should not misinterpret this statement as an emerging alliance with the United States or Indonesia ready to confront China; Bradford said that naming China as a problematic player is a relatively small step, while an important one.


The Philippines accuses the Chinese coast guard of firing water cannons at its ships in the disputed waters

The Philippines accuses the Chinese coast guard of firing water cannons at its ships in the disputed waters

Abdurrahman Yaqub, a researcher on Southeast Asian security at the Australian National University, said the statement reflects the view of Indonesian defense planners that China poses a “security threat”.

He added that Indonesia had long refused to take sides US-Chinese rivalry“Preferring to be neutral,” but Indonesia has in recent years strengthened its military presence in the Natuna Islands, with Beijing continuing to deploy its navy and coast guard in the region.
“Indonesian military officials with whom I dealt privately have also raised issues of Chinese incursions into the waters around the Caribbean Sea. Natuna Islands“Its military activities in the South China Sea,” Abdul Rahman said. “This joint statement will not come out of nowhere and suddenly; Such joint statements are often the product of intense discussion between the two parties.

China is “sending a signal” to Indonesia with large coast guard ships near the island

In January, the largest Chinese coast guard ships sailed in the waters around Natunas, located north of Indonesia’s Riau Islands province, the exclusive economic zone of the Southeast Asian country.

Last December, China asked Indonesia to stop drilling for oil and natural gas in a temporary offshore platform because it is taking place in Chinese territory, a step rejected by Jakarta, explaining that it is a sovereign right of Jakarta.

Indonesia says that under the Unclos System, the southern tip of the South China Sea is its exclusive economic zone. In 2017, it named the area the North Natuna Sea; However, China objected to the move, insisting that the waterway fell within its expansionist claims in the South China Sea, which it demarcates with the U-shaped “nine-point line”.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague found the border to have no legal basis in 2016.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, hosts Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto at a meeting at the Pentagon on August 24. photo: dpa

Indonesia, the archipelago with a population of 270 million, is seeking to modernize its army and replace its equipment, and has allocated 134.3 trillion rupiah ($8.8 billion) this year for defense, the largest allocation in the state budget, with a similar amount for next year.

The country is seeking to modernize its fighter jets, which currently include the US-made F-16 and the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30.

Rahman said that this development should be seen in the context of Indonesia’s military modernization efforts, which began in 2005 with the “minimum basic force” policy adopted by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over two decades to modernize the military, especially the navy and air force. power.

South China Sea: Indonesia’s efforts to modernize its military with the support of the United States

Rahman said the program accelerated after Prabowo became defense minister in 2019, and last year he led a delegation to France and ordered 42 Rafael fighter jets, considered one of the best in the world, as well as Scorpene-class attack submarines. .

He said the need for further modernization was due to the many security challenges Indonesia faced, adding that they ranged from domestic terrorist threats and separatist movements to external threats such as China’s incursions into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, as well as tensions between the United States and China.

He added, “Indonesian defense officials with whom I dealt expressed that the US-Chinese military conflict may extend to Indonesian maritime territory, and therefore there is an urgent need to modernize the Indonesian army to defend Indonesia’s interests.” forces.

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