The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency (Badan Keamanan Laut Republik Indonesia – BAKAMLA) has driven off a Chinese Coast Guard vessel, identified as CCG 5204, that entered Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the North Natuna Sea near Riau Islands without authorization. The vessel, Chinese coast guard ship 5204, was detected by Bakamla patrol ship KN Nipah 321 through an automatic identification system at around 10:00 a.m. local time on Saturday. According to the Indonesian Coast Guard, the Chinese ship insisted that it had the right to patrol around the so-called nine-dash line China’s geographic expression in the South China Sea that denotes China’s traditional fishing grounds. One of the nine dashes slices through waters north of the Natuna Islands.
KN Nipah 321 is one of the patrol ships Bakamla deployed for Operation Cegah Tangkal (Prevent and Repel) over the western maritime zone. The operation started on Sept. 4 and is set to continue until November. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency is a maritime patrol and rescue agency of the Republic of Indonesia. In 2016, an international tribunal dismissed the nine-dash line as legally baseless. In addition, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) also dismissed China’s nine-dash line and it granted Indonesia sovereign rights to explore and exploit natural resources in its EEZ. Indonesia rejects China’s nine-dash line claim saying it contravenes the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, saying it costs the economy billions of dollars annually.
In January Indonesia deployed fighter jets and warships to patrol the Natuna islands waters in a spat with Beijing after Chinese vessels, both coast guard ship and fishing boats, entered the area. China claims most of the South China Sea despite competing claims from other South-east Asian nations including Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Chinese ships also regularly patrol off the island of Borneo and near James Shoal east of the Natuna islands, China’s southernmost territorial claim which Malaysia says belongs to it. The South China Sea accounts for more than 10% of the global fish catch and surrounding states have taken increasingly extreme measures to ensure they obtain their share. Stocks have declined drastically amid overfishing and the destruction of coral reefs, to the point that they may be on the verge of collapse, according to some studies.