Indonesian President Joko Widodo held a cabinet meeting aboard a warship off the Natuna Islands on Thursday, asserting sovereignty over waters in the southern reaches of the South China Sea and sending a message to Beijing.
During the cabinet meeting onboard the Indonesian navy corvette, Widodo called on the military to step up patrols in the wake of a series of face-offs between Indonesian and Chinese vessels in area, Reuters reported.
“The capabilities of the military…in securing our seas should be improved, whether it’s technology or general preparedness,” Widodo said, according to a presidential palace statement.
Officials told reporters the cabinet also discussed matters of sovereignty and development.
Indonesia has established a special economic zone in the gas-rich waters around Natuna Islands, which lie over 340 kilometers off the northwest tip of Borneo island.
Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, who accompanied Widodo, posted online photos of the president aboard the warship and of a written message he left for the crew, saying “Defend Indonesia”.
The president’s visit to a body of water that Indonesia calls the Natuna Sea reflects the government’s strong stance over the issue, Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said.
China does not dispute Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Natuna Islands, but has said that some waters of the South China Sea were subject to “overlapping claims on maritime rights and interests”.
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