As Jakarta accepts a plan to develop an offshore gas field there, the China Coast Guard’s flagship has been patrolling the waters surrounding Indonesia’s Natuna islands in the South China Sea, according to ship monitoring data. The largest coast guard warship in the world, CCG 5901, has been in the region since December 30, according to ship tracker Marine Traffic.
The first development plan for the Tuna Block, which is situated both inside Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and inside the so-called “nine-dash line” that China uses to assert historical rights over the majority of the South China Sea, was approved by the Indonesian government earlier this week. As both Vietnam and Indonesia have claims that fall within the “nine-dash line,” the conclusion of negotiations between the two nations last month about the limits of their EEZs is sure to enrage China.
According to Satya Pratama, a senior Indonesian government official and a former captain of Bakamla (Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency), Chinese coast guard warships have been monitoring the area to support “Beijing’s ludicrous claims in the South China Sea.” However, the CCG 5901’s presence, known as “the monster” due to its size and tonnage, may indicate a rise in China’s aggression. An official revealed to RFA affiliate BenarNews that the Tuna Block oil and gas field development plan has been approved by Indonesia’s Upstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Task Force (SKK Migas).
According to Muhammad Kemal, spokesman for SKK Migas, the idea will require an expenditure of around $3 billion before manufacturing can begin. Approximately ten years ago, Indonesia started drilling exploration wells in the area, according to Kemal, who also stated that the country is anticipated to reach a “peak output of 115 million standard cubic feet [3.3 million cubic metres] per day in 2027.” The largest independent oil and gas company with a London listing, Harbor Energy, operates the field locally.
According to the spokeswoman, natural gas from the Tuna field is anticipated to be exported to Vietnam beginning in 2026 and could generate US$1.24 billion annually. Although SKK Migas chairman Dwi Soetjipto stated in a statement that there will be activities “near the border area, which is one of the world’s geopolitical hot points,” China has not yet voiced opposition to the Tuna Block development plan through official channels. According to Soetjipto, who was reported by Reuters, the Indonesian Navy would “participate in securing the upstream oil and gas project,” which is “an affirmation of Indonesia’s sovereignty.”