China’s Indo-Pacific naval exercise, which I first analysed in this post, is continuing to make waves, with David Wroe of the Sydney Morning Herald providing this good wrap-up on the implications for Australia. But what are we to make of the latest twist being reported in the Jakarta Post?
The report quotes an Indonesian military spokesman as saying that Jakarta had allowed Chinese navy vessels to pass through Indonesian waters as ‘a token of our friendship’. The headline suggests, none too subtly, that this was also about Indonesia deliberately snubbing Australian sensitivities, presumably because of differences over issues such as illegal immigration and espionage.
But the report needs to be treated with caution. A few elements don’t stack up.
For a start, the TNI spokesman, Rear Admiral Iskandar Sitompul, does not appear to have said anything about Australia when referring to the Chinese naval exercise, suggesting that the ‘Indonesia thumbs its nose at Oz’ headline may be a bit of editorial mischief aimed at stoking Australia-Indonesia tensions.
Second, the details quoted about the Chinese exercise are not consistent with the Chinese navy’s own official reports about what took place.