The spat between Indonesia and China over the South-east Asian nation’s actions to intercept a Chinese fishing vessel poaching in its exclusive economic zone, and Malaysia’s startling announcement yesterday that it was monitoring the intrusion of 100 Chinese fishing boats in its waters guarded by two Chinese coast guard ships, have again raised worry over the behaviour of Asia’s dominant power.
On March 19, when the Indonesian vessel detained the Chinese trawler and was towing it towards land, a Chinese coast guard ship appeared and sought to reclaim the boat. However, Indonesia succeeded in bringing in the eight poachers and has vowed to prosecute them.
For the moment, Indonesia, after going public with the spat, is reining in its reaction even as it is incensed by China saying its boat was operating in “traditional fishing grounds”. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has emphasised the good ties between her country and China. She also has clarified, after initial rumblings of taking China to international tribunals, that “Indonesia is not a party to the South China Sea dispute, so we are asking for a clarification about the incident”. Those words, however, do not preclude future steps that the archipelagic nation may take to defend its interests. Malaysia, on the other hand, has hinted at possible legal action.