JAKARTA: Indonesia will openly express its opposition to China’s vast claims in the West Philippine (South China) Sea when Southeast Asian senior officials, ministers and leaders gather over the coming days in Kuala Lumpur for a series of annual meetings, stressing that China’s so-called “nine-dash lines” map has no legal basis, a government source said Friday.
The area contained in the so-called nine-dash lines, which covers most of the South China
Sea, overlaps with the exclusive economic zone generated from Indonesia’s Natuna Islands.
Indonesia officially protested against China’s map when it was officially submitted to the United Nations in May 2009.
The source, citing a position paper, said Indonesia will say during meetings of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations that it does not recognize China’s claims based on the nine-dash line map as it “clearly lacks international legal basis,” and considers it to be, for all intents and purposes, in a state of “non-existence.”
And although Indonesia is not a claimant state in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it has been warily monitoring China’s development of infrastructure there, including rig and lighthouse construction, as well as its seismic surveys and fishing activities, the paper says.
It says Indonesia will stress that it has sovereignty over maritime territory in Natuna Sea and some parts of the South China Sea and therefore needs “to maintain its sovereignty and its sovereign rights in each maritime zone.”
Through diplomatic channels and notes, Indonesia has been repeatedly seeking clarification from China on the nine-dash line shown on a map published in 1947 by the then Republic of China to justify its claims in the South China Sea, but to no avail, the source said.
The source said Indonesia will continue playing a positive role in helping to resolve the disputes among the claimants on occasions such as the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Meeting and during meetings with China aimed at drafting a legally binding code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea.
Indonesia’s “free and active” foreign policy, the source said, provides room for it to be “a balancing power in the region.”
“We have made our message clear that Indonesia is always ready to be an honest broker, but to be an honest broker, we must surely be invited,” said senior Foreign Ministry official Derry Aman.
“We have knocked on the door, but the door has not been opened yet. The parties involved must open the door to accept us as an honest broker,” he added.
The West Philippine Sea is claimed wholly or partly by China, Taiwan and four ASEAN members — Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Besides them and Indonesia, ASEAN also includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.
The position paper will underline the importance of efforts to seek solutions to the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea through diplomacy.
It says Indonesia will call all claimants to respect international legal principles and actively work to prevent their rows from escalating because the outbreak of conflict would threaten both shipping safety and world peace.
Last week, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters at the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents’ Club that Indonesia opposes “any power projection from any country in that region.”
Tensions in the West Philippine Sea — an area of crucial shipping lanes, abundant in marine resources and believed to be rich in oil and gas — rose after a US Navy destroyer recently sailed near an artificial island created by China within what it claims as its territorial waters.
Meanwhile, the Philippines is seeking arbitral rulings on whether some Chinese activities in the disputed waters are in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, such as its interference with Philippine fishing activities, its massive land reclamation projects and its fortification of some contested features.