BEIJING — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:
Indonesian reports say the country plans to develop fisheries surround the Natuna Islands it controls in a potential challenge to China’s claims to resources in the South China Sea.
The Jakarta Post and others said Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan made the announcement Friday. The plan, due for implantation by year’s end, would include deploying drones, satellites and refueling tankers to aid fishermen in making catches and the construction of cold storage facilities to enable them to get freshly caught fish to market.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, is not a party to the six-government dispute over territory in the South China Sea, but has been taking measures in recent years to guard against encroachment on its resources by China and others. Ships caught operating illegally in Indonesian fishing grounds have been fired on, seized and destroyed. Most of the vessels were from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia or Thailand.
Relations with Beijing are expected to be a major issue in April’s presidential election. Although the government of President Joko Widodo has pursued billions in financing for infrastructure projects, the opposition points to a trade imbalance massively in China’s favor as a sign of problems to come.
A section of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone that includes natural gas fields lies within China’s “nine-dash line” delineating its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. Chinese ships also regularly patrol off the island of Borneo and near James Shoal east of the Natuna islands, China’s southernmost territorial claim which Malaysia says belongs to it.