Indonesia dispatches a warship to the northern Natuna Sea to patrol a Chinese Coast Guard ship

Indonesia has dispatched a warship to its northern Natuna Sea to patrol a Chinese Coast Guard vessel active in a resource-rich sea area, the country’s navy chief said Saturday over an area both countries claim as their own.

Vessel tracking data shows the vessel, CCG 5901, has been sailing in the Natuna Sea since Dec. 30, specifically near the Tuna Bloc gas field and Vietnam’s Chim Sao oil and gas field, Indonesia’s Ocean Justice Initiative told Reuters.

A warship, a maritime patrol plane and a drone were deployed to monitor the ship, Indonesian Navy chief Laksamana Muhammad Ali told Reuters.

“The Chinese ship did not conduct any suspicious activity,” 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 was not immediately available for comment.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) gives ships navigation rights through an EEZ.

The activity follows an Indonesia-Vietnam EEZ agreement and Indonesia’s approval to develop the Natuna Sea tuna gas field with an estimated total investment of more than US$3 billion to start production.

In 2021, ships from Indonesia and China shadowed each other for months near a submersible rig that had been performing good reviews in the tuna block.

At the time, China asked Indonesia to stop drilling, saying the activities were taking place on its territory.

Southeast Asia’s largest nation states that the southern end of the South China Sea is its exclusive economic zone under UNCLOS, and named the area the North Natuna Sea in 2017.

China denies this, saying the sea area is within its extended territorial claim in the South China Sea, which is demarcated by a U-shaped “nine-dash line,” a boundary that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016 found not legal found justifiable.

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