South China Sea Dispute: Indonesia Refuses Negotiations, Rejects China’s Nine-Dash Line Claims


China and Indonesia agree on at least one issue about the Natuna Islands, part of the larger Raiu archipelago, located in disputed waters that Indonesia has renamed the North Natuna Sea.

On May 26, Indonesia said in a diplomatic note it is not a party to the territorial dispute in the South China Sea. Beijing responded by also sending a diplomatic note June 2 agreeing there is no territorial dispute between China and Indonesia in the South China Sea.

But once again, the oft mentioned Nine-Dash line that China uses as a basis for its claims in the waters is at odds with Indonesia’s claim that the line lacks an international legal basis.

What they formally disagree on was stated by China in its June 2 note that said, “However, China and Indonesia have overlapping claims on maritime rights and interests in some parts of the South China Sea. China is willing to settle the overlapping claims through negotiation and consultation with Indonesia and work together with Indonesia to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

That note to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres prompted another correspondence from Indonesia to the U.N. on June 12, which was in the form of a diplomatic letter.

The letter stated features in the Spratly Islands, a chain in the South China Sea, were not entitled to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and therefore could not overlap with Indonesia’s EEZ. It also rejected China’s claim of historic rights (the Nine-Dash line) in parts of the sea that do overlap Indonesia’s EEZ and said even if any such rights existed, they had been superseded by provisions in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, made in 1982.