Hours after reports of a confrontation between a Chinese coastguard ship and an Indonesian vessel in the South China Sea, a top Chinese diplomat called an Indonesian government official with a plea: Don’t tell the media, we are friends after all.
That request was rebuffed as officials in Jakarta called a press conference to complain about China’s actions. While Indonesia has largely been on the periphery of disputes between China and other nations over the South China Sea, the spat risks drawing the Southeast Asian nation into territorial contests in the oil-and-gas rich waters.
The Indonesian official said his government didn’t want to respond, but was forced to because China’s actions were especially provocative, and fitted a pattern of becoming more assertive in the waters. The official didn’t want to be named because of the sensitivity of the incident. The Chinese embassy didn’t answer four phone calls or reply to two e-mails asking about the call.