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UPDATE 1-Indonesia protests to China over coastguard infringement
* Chinese coastguard breached Indonesian sovereignty -
* China has demanded release of detained fishermen
* Indonesia is non-claimant in disputed South China Sea
(Adds comment, details)
By Fergus Jensen and Bernadette Christina Munthe
JAKARTA, March 21 (Reuters) - Indonesia protested to China
on Monday against what it described as an infringement of its
waters by a Chinese coastguard vessel near a disputed area of
the South China Sea, the foreign minister said.
The incident comes amid heightened tension in the South
China Sea, in particular over China's land reclamation and over
its claims to vast swathes of the resource-rich shipping
Several Southeast Asian countries have overlapping claims in
the area though Indonesia does not, and it sees itself as an
"honest broker" in the various territorial disputes.
Indonesia's foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, said she had
met Chinese embassy representatives in Jakarta after an incident
at the weekend involving the Chinese coastguard vessel, a
Chinese fishing vessel, and an Indonesian patrol ship in an area
known as the Natuna Sea.
"At the meeting we conveyed our strong protest (over) ...
the breach by the Chinese coastguard of Indonesia's sovereign
rights," Marsudi told a news conference.
Indonesian authorities attempted to detain a Chinese vessel
they said was fishing illegally in its waters, an Indonesian
official said earlier.
Eight Chinese crew members were detained but the Chinese
coastguard prevented Indonesia from securing the fishing vessel.
China has said the fishing vessel was operating in
"traditional Chinese fishing grounds" and has demanded the
fishermen be released.
"When it comes to fishery disputes, or maritime issues,
China is always ready to work with Indonesia to solve these
disputes trough negotiations and dialogue," Chinese embassy
official Sun Weide told reporters in Jakarta after meeting the
Indonesian fisheries minister.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic
shipping corridor, also rich in fish and natural gas, where
several Southeast Asian countries also have overlapping claims.
But China and Indonesia do not contest the sovereignty of
the Natuna islands and the seas around them: both agree they are
part of Indonesia's Riau Province.
But tension between the two sides does flare every now and
then, usually over Chinese fishing boats.
In March 2013, armed Chinese vessels confronted an
Indonesian fisheries patrol boat and demanded the release of
Chinese fishermen who had been apprehended in Natuna waters.
Fearing for his safety, the captain of the Indonesian boat
Similarly, in 2010, a Chinese maritime enforcement vessel
compelled an Indonesian patrol boat to release another illegal
Indonesia has no plans to boost military resources in the
remote, resource-rich Natuna Islands in response to the latest
incident, the defense minister said.
(Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Paul
Tait, Robert Birsel)
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