Indonesia Plays Up New South China Sea ‘Base’ After China Spat


Lawmakers want existing plans for a new ‘base’ in the Natunas to get a closer look.

Last week, a Chinese coast guard ship once again attempted to intercept an Indonesian crackdown on a Chinese boat for illegal fishing near the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea, sparking unprecedented outrage from Jakarta.

Though Indonesia is technically not a claimant in the South China Sea disputes, it is an interested party since China’s nine-dash line overlaps with the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the resource-rich Natuna Islands, a point that has long miffed Jakarta. The latest incident has predictably led to speculation about the extent to which Indonesia might reexamine its approach to the South China Sea and its overall policy towards China under its president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo “See: “Indonesia’s South China Sea Policy: A Delicate Equilibrium”).

As I noted in a previous piece, my own sense is that we will see a recalibration of Indonesia’s South China Sea policy – which I’ve termed a “delicate equilibrium” – rather than a radical departure from it (See: “Will Indonesia’s South China Sea Policy Change Amid China’s Assertiveness?”. This would include a faster buildup of Indonesian capabilities near the Natunas.