JAKARTA, March 21- Indonesia has protested to China against what it described as an infringement of its waters by a Chinese coastguard vessel near a disputed area of the South China Sea, the foreign minister said.
The incident comes amid heightened tension in the South China Sea, in particular over China’s land reclamation and over its claims to vast swathes of the resource-rich shipping corridor.
Several South East Asian countries have overlapping claims in the area though Indonesia does not, and it sees itself as an “honest broker” in the various territorial disputes.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said she had met Chinese embassy representatives in Jakarta after an incident at the weekend involving the Chinese coastguard vessel, a Chinese fishing vessel, and an Indonesian patrol ship in an area known as the Natuna Sea.
“At the meeting we conveyed our strong protest (over) … the breach by the Chinese coastguard of Indonesia’s sovereign rights,” Ms Marsudi told a news conference.
Indonesian authorities attempted to detain a Chinese vessel they said was fishing illegally in its waters, an Indonesian official said earlier.
Eight Chinese crew members were detained but the Chinese coastguard prevented Indonesia from securing the fishing vessel.
China said the fishing vessel was operating in “traditional Chinese fishing grounds” and has demanded the fishermen be released.
“When it comes to fishery disputes, or maritime issues, China is always ready to work with Indonesia to solve these disputes through negotiations and dialogue,” Chinese embassy official Sun Weide told reporters in Jakarta after meeting the Indonesian fisheries minister.
Photo – AFP