The country’s naval leader said on Saturday that Indonesia has sent a warship to the North Natuna Sea to keep an eye on a Chinese coast guard vessel that has been operating in a resource-rich maritime region that both nations claim as their own.
The ship, CCG 5901, has been travelling in the Natuna Sea since December 30, notably close to the Vietnamese Chim Sao oil and gas field and the Tuna Bloc gas field, according to ship monitoring data, the Indonesian Ocean Justice Initiative told Reuters.
Reuters was informed by Laksamana Muhammad Ali, the head of the Indonesian navy, that a warship, a marine patrol plane, and a drone had been sent out to monitor the vessel.
He claimed that “the Chinese vessel has not engaged in any suspicious activity.” But because it has been in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for a while, we need to keep an eye on it.
The Chinese embassy in Jakarta did not immediately have a spokesman available for comment.
Vessels are granted navigation rights through an EEZ under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The action follows the signing of an EEZ agreement between Indonesia and Vietnam and Indonesia’s approval of the development of the Tuna gas field in the Natuna Sea, which is expected to cost more than $3 billion in total up until production begins.
In 2021, warships from China and Indonesia spent months observing one another close to a submersible oil rig that was conducting well assessments in the Tuna block.
At the time, China requested Indonesia to halt drilling, claiming that the operations were taking place on its soil.
The largest country in Southeast Asia claims that the southern end of the South China Sea falls inside its exclusive economic zone under UNCLOS and renamed the region the North Natuna Sea in 2017.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague determined in 2016 that the marine area is inside China’s broad territorial claim in the South China Sea, which is delineated by a U-shaped “nine-dash line.” China disputes this.