For Indonesia, China’s claims in the South China Sea are illegal

China claims the right to fish in the waters of some Indonesian islands. After the Philippines, Indonesia is the second country to back a 2016 ruling that rejected China’s claims. For Jakarta, Beijing’s Nine-Dash line is contrary to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Negotiations for a code of conduct for navigation in the area have dragged on since 2016.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesia rejects China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. In a recent letter to the United Nations, the Indonesian government expressed its support for by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which in 2016 ruled that Chinese claims to almost 90 per cent of the vast sea have “no legal basis”.

Until now, Indonesia has kept a low profile vis-à-vis the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Only the northern section of the country looks out onto the South China Sea, most notably the Natuna islands.

China is not claiming this group of 272 islands, but believes it is entitled to fish in their waters, something that Indonesia rejects.

On several occasions, the Indonesian Navy had to intervene against Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese Coast Guard and other ships. The latest incident of this kind was reported in early January.

This is the first time that a Southeast Asian country explicitly backs the decision of the Court of Arbitration, whose ruling follows a request by the Philippines.

The Philippines, together with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, and with the active support of the United States, has challenged China’s expansionism in the South China Sea. However, this has not stopped China from occupying and militarising some of the area's coral reefs.

For Indonesia, China’s historic Nine-Dash demarcation line in the South China has no legal basis and violates the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In a letter to the United Nations last December, Malaysia expressed the same view, urging the UN to define the limits of the Sea’s continental shelf from its northern coastline. However, Malaysia’s claims clash with China’s.

For its part, the Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN) is committed to negotiating a "code of conduct" with China to regulate navigation in the South China Sea.

Such code could help ease tensions, but negotiations have dragged on since 2016 with little results, above all because China refuses to accept the decision of the Court of Arbitration.