Indonesia to Summon Chinese Ambassador Over Natuna Islands Standoff i

A standoff between Chinese and Indonesian maritime officials occurred on Sunday (20/03) off the coast of Indonesia's Natuna Islands. (Reuters Photo/Tim Wimborne)

By : Tri Listiyarini | on 6:48 PM March 20, 2016
Category : News, Featured

Updated at 00:35 a.m. on Monday (21/03) to add statement from Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, other details, background

Jakarta. Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Susi Pudjiastuti will summon the Chinese ambassador to Indonesia on Monday (21/03) over reports of a standoff between Chinese coast guards and Indonesian officials trying to capture a ship illegally fishing in Indonesian waters, although China says the incident happened in "a traditional Chinese fishing ground."

Susi said Indonesian officials were pursuing the ship Kway Fey 10078 at 2.15 p.m. on Saturday, for illegally fishing off the coast of Indonesia's Natuna islands as it attempted to flee to the contested South China Sea.

Three officials managed to climb on board and arrested a total of eight crew members, but a Chinese coast guard ship intervened and rammed the fishing ship back into the South China Sea.

“We will summon the Chinese ambassador [ Xie Feng] to discuss the issue [on Monday]. Because in the process of capturing the ship, a standoff occurred,” she told reporters on Sunday. “We respect China, but we must also maintain our sovereignty.”

The incident, she said, occurred just 4.34 kilometers off Indonesia's Natuna islands, which meant it was well inside Indonesia's exclusive economic zone.

“We want to avoid a much more serious incident, so we settled on just arresting the eight crew members. The ship got away but we have the eight men in custody to help us investigate this incident,” Susi said.

The Chinese embassy said in a statement issued late on Sunday night that the area where the incident occurred is "a traditional Chinese fishing ground."

"The Chinese fishing vessel was conducting its regular operation when chased by an armed Indonesian vessel," embassy spokesman Xu Hangtian said in the statement, adding: "It is hoped that the Indonesian side could properly handle this issue, taking into consideration the overall picture of our bilateral relations."

Last January, when construction of a China-funded fast train between Jakarta and Bandung was about to start, Ambassador Xie described ties between Indonesia and China as "better than ever." The project ran into administrative trouble not long after, however, and only last week did Indonesian authorities grant permission to start construction of the first five-kilometer stretch of railway.

China has staked its claim on vast swathes of the South China Sea that are also claimed by several Southeast Asian countries. Indonesia is not a claimant in the heated issue, but has raised concerns over China's inclusion of the resource-rich Natuna Islands in its so-called "nine-dash line."

Additional reporting from Reuters

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