Indonesia is set to clash with China after the Republic plans to assert its authority over the South China Sea by developing lucrative fishing grounds in the waters. China claims almost all of the South China Sea and frequently criticises the US and its allies over naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands. Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan all have competing claims for territory in the region.
On Friday, Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordination Minister for Maritime Affairs said the Natuna Islands on the edge of the South China Sea would be developed into a fishing hub, the Jakarta Post reports.
The waters off the island are rich in gas and fish stocks and the Indonesian Government plans to build cold-storage facilities and use satellites and drones to help Indonesian fishing vessels operating in the surrounding waters.
The hub is set to be operational by the end of the year.
China and Indonesia have previously clashed over the waters around the Natuna Islands.
Mr Pandjaitan said: “We would also be providing refuelling tankers for our fishing boats… so no one can claim that [the area is their] traditional fishing zone.”
Indonesia has embarked on an aggressive campaign to curb illegal fishing over the past few years, seizing hundreds of foreign vessels – even blowing up some in public displays.
The Republic declared the issue as an “international problem” that “requires cross border cooperation” at a UN Ocean Conference in 2017.
Earlier in the month the US Navy sent two guided-missile destroyers close to the location of several territorial conflict zones in the South China Sea.
The US defended the move, with Commander Clay Doss saying the two warships were there to “preserve access” to waterways “governed by international law”.
The rising military tension between China and the US comes against the backdrop of an increasingly bitter trade war between the two superpowers.
The two sides are trying to hammer out a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when US tariffs on $200billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 per cent from 10 percent.
Escalating tensions between the United States and China have cost both countries billions of dollars and roiled global financial markets.
The two countries are also at odds over regional security, including Washington’s overtures to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.