(Reuters) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo said one of China’s main claims to the majority of the South China Sea had no legal basis in international law, but Jakarta wanted to remain an “honest broker” in one of Asia’s most thorny territorial disputes.
Widodo’s comments in an interview with a major Japanese newspaper came as he embarked on a visit to Japan and China, and was the first time he had taken a position on the issue since coming to power in October.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the sea, where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.
The territorial dispute is seen as one of Asia’s hot spots, carrying risks that it could spiral out of control and result in conflict as countries aggressively stake their claims.