Indonesia vows to defend ‘every inch’ of territory
President Joko Widodo pledged on Tuesday to defend “every inch” of Indonesia’s land and maritime territory, following clashes with Chinese vessels around Indonesian islands in the South China Sea.
In a state of the nation address he also said Indonesia was “actively involved” in seeking a peaceful solution to the broader regional dispute about ownership of islands in the Sea.
Widodo’s underscoring of Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Natunas islands - and the resource-rich waters surrounding them - comes at a time of high maritime tensions between Beijing and Jakarta after repeated clashes there.
“We are developing regions like Entikong, Natuna, and Atambua so the world can see that Indonesia is a big country, and every inch of its land and water is truly taken care of,” he said in a televised address which did not refer directly to China.
Entikong and Atambua are remote Indonesian territories bordering Malaysia and East Timor respectively. His comments come as Jakarta prepares to mark independence day celebrations on Wednesday by scuttling dozens of foreign boats seized for illegally fishing in Indonesian waters.
The government has previously said that Chinese ships would be among those scuttled. The sinking in May of a large Chinese vessel ship caught fishing illegally around the Natunas drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing.