South China Sea And Indonesia’s New Maritime Strategy – Analysis


Strategically responding to China’s conflict escalation in South China Sea, newly elected President Widodo announced Indonesia’s New Maritime Strategy in November 2014.

Contextually, Indonesia should have responded much earlier for a redefinition of Indonesia’s maritime postures in keeping with China’s enlarging escalation of conflict in the South China Sea against Indonesia’s ASEAN neighbours.

Regrettably this did not take place for multiple reasons which prompted earlier Indonesian political dispensation to adopt a “Hands-Off” policy posture on South China Sea conflicts.

Indonesia’s previous Foreign Minister thought it more prudent to adopt such an attitude as China’s military brinkmanship had directly not touched Indonesia. Also, the prevailing view was that with such a posture, Indonesia would be enabled to play the role of a ‘honest broker’ and not antagonise China.

Such a policy steered and dominated by the previous Foreign Minister was strongly contested by Indonesia’s powerful military who viewed with alarm China’s conflict escalation with Vietnam and the Philippines and China’s creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea for supplementing China’s strategy to achieve what I have always termed at international seminars as China’s strategy of achieving “Full Spectrum Dominance of the South China Sea”.

The Indonesian military was also disturbed that Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s posture was ignoring the fact that Chinese claim-lines in the South China Sea also impinged on Indonesian waters around the Natuna Islands and it was only a matter of time that China would focus her strategic gaze on the Natuna Islands as it had done in the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands.

The above strategic reality emerged forcefully last year when Chinese PLA Navy ships exercised in the waters around Natuna Islands and Chinese Navy ships passed through the Indonesian straits into the southern waters of Indonesia and the northern waters of Australia.


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