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South China Sea

Indonesia says China's 'nine-dash line' puts its interests at risk

Jakarta dismisses Beijing's South China Sea claims in letter to UN

Indonesian President Joko Widodo stands on the deck of an Indonesian Navy ship.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Indonesia's economic interests are jeopardized by China's territorial claim covering most of the South China Sea, its foreign minister said Thursday, explaining a letter Jakarta sent recently to the United Nations.

"China's claims potentially affect Indonesia's exclusive economic zone," Retno Marsudi said at a virtual news conference. "The Indonesian government remains consistent in its position."

Indonesia's letter, dated May 26, says that China's "nine-dash line" demarcation for the sea lacks a basis in international law, citing the 2016 decision by a Hague tribunal. The text also rejects Beijing's historical claims on the area.

Unlike with the Philippines, Vietnam or Malaysia, Indonesian territorial claims in the South China Sea do not directly conflict with China's. But the exclusive economic zone around Indonesia's Natuna archipelago overlaps with the nine-dash line. Chinese fishing boats have repeatedly operated in the area.

Indonesia's statement follows China's recent attempts to strengthen its influence over the water body while the world copes with the novel coronavirus pandemic. Beijing established new administrative districts in the South China Sea in April, and the Chinese navy deployed the aircraft carrier Liaoning and other vessels in the area for military exercises.

Indonesian public sentiment toward China reportedly has worsened. Last month, it was revealed that the remains of several Indonesian nationals were cast off Chinese fishing ships into the ocean. The deceased apparently died from overwork.

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