Indonesia sends warship to North Natuna Sea to monitor Chinese coast guard ship

Indonesia has deployed a warship in the North Natuna Sea to monitor a Chinese coast guard vessel that has been active in a resource-rich sea area, in an area both countries claim as their own, the Indonesian navy chief said on Saturday.

Ship-tracking data shows that the CCG 5901 vessel has been sailing in the Natuna Sea, particularly near the Tuna Block gas field and Vietnam’s Chim Sao oil and gas field since December 30, Indonesia’s Ocean Justice Initiative told Reuters.

Laksamana Muhammed Ali, commander of the Indonesian Navy, told Reuters that a warship, a maritime patrol plane and a drone had been deployed to monitor the ship.

“The Chinese ship did not carry out any suspicious activities,” he said. “However, we need to monitor it as it has been in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for some time.”

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Jakarta could not be reached for comment.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) grants navigation rights to ships through the exclusive economic zone.

The activity follows the exclusive economic zone agreement between Indonesia and Vietnam, and Indonesia’s agreement to develop the tuna gas field in the Natuna Sea, with a total investment estimated at more than $3 billion until production starts.

In 2021, ships from Indonesia and China shadowed each other for several months near the submersible oil rig that was doing well reviews in the tuna block.

At the time, China urged Indonesia to stop drilling, saying the activities were happening in its territory.

Southeast Asia’s largest country says that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the southern tip of the South China Sea is its exclusive economic zone, naming the area the North Natuna Sea in 2017.

China rejects this, saying the maritime area falls within its vast territorial claim in the South China Sea marked by the U-shaped “nine-span line”, a boundary for which the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague found no legal basis in 2016.

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