JAKARTA – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday (Oct 29) rejected China’s “unlawful claims” in the South China Sea and pledged to cooperate with Indonesia “in new ways” to ensure maritime security in the area.
He praised Indonesia’s “decisive action” in safeguarding its maritime sovereignty in the waters surrounding Natuna Islands.
“I am looking forward to cooperating together in the new ways to ensure maritime security protects some of the world’s busiest trade routes,” Mr Pompeo said at a joint press conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Jakarta.
The US Secretary of State is in the Indonesian capital on a stopover in a five-nation Asia tour that has already taken him to India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. He is due to visit Vietnam later on Thursday.
Ms Retno said the South China Sea should be maintained as “a stable and peaceful sea” where international law is respected and implemented.
Ties between Indonesia and China have in the past been tense over the issue of sovereignty of the lucrative fishing waters around the country’s northern Natuna Islands, which lie between Malaysia and Borneo.
The country’s exclusive economic zone, a sweep of sea extending 200 nautical miles from shore, overlaps with China’s “nine-dash line” claim in the South China Sea.
Incursions by Chinese fishing boats, escorted by Chinese coast guard vessels, on several occasions had raised the ire in Jakarta, prompting increased Indonesian patrols and security presence in the area.