Hold the Line Against Beijing


According to official tallies, Joko Widodo — popularly known by Indonesians as “Jokowi”— has emerged as the clear winner of a heated presidential election in Indonesia. But it’s uncertain how the new Indonesian leader will address pressing regional security issues — most immediately, the South China Sea’s tinderbox of maritime and territorial conflicts.

As China becomes more assertive, and at times even revisionist, in the South China Sea, a strong security partnership between the United States and Indonesia could be mutually beneficial. Therefore it’s important that Washington encourage Jokowi to assume a leadership role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and take a firm stance against China’s accumulating moves to change the status quo in Southeast Asia.

Recent Chinese provocations in the South China Sea have stoked regional and global concerns. China established an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam and has begun an island building campaign on reefs in an area claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.

[SEE: Cartoons on Chinese Hacking]

Furthermore, China continues to defend its expansive territorial and maritime claims in Southeast Asia, known commonly as the “nine-dash line.” The claims, which encompasses 90 percent of the South China Sea, bring additional nations into the dispute and violate international law, according to U.S. officials. China’s continuing efforts to advance these claims have prompted Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to warn Beijing against taking “destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea.”

Indonesia is one of several nations that have come into disagreement with China over the “nine-dash line” claims. Beijing’s map encompasses parts of the Indonesian Natuna Islands. In response, Indonesian military forces have been deployed to Natuna. Indeed, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa acknowledged the issue, telling journalists, “We are seeking the legal foundation, not the historical foundation, of this nine-dash line from the United Nations because it has the potential to generate misunderstanding.”


Read more: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2014/08/01/the-us-and-indonesia-need-to-hold-back-china-in-the-south-china-sea