06/20/2016, 16.56
INDONESIA – CHINA
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Indonesia’s Navy fires on Chinese fishing boat as tensions rise in the South China Sea

The incident occurred near the Natuna Islands. China claims that one fisherman was wounded and others were arrested. Indonesia promises to protect the area. China continues to militarise a maritime region that is subject of a dispute with Southeast Asian countries. The US and the Philippines conduct military exercises. Vietnam reports attacks on its fishing boats.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Tensions are flaring up in the South China Sea after Beijing accused Indonesia of firing at one of its fishing boats on Friday near the Natuna Islands, off the coast of Borneo in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims that one fisherman was wounded and others arrested in the incident. The Indonesian Navy said it had fired shots at several boats with Chinese flags, but added that no one was wounded. It is unclear whether any Chinese fishermen are still held in Indonesia.

This is the third incident this year near the Natuna Islands. Although China recognises that the islands as Indonesian, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the boat was in "traditional fishing grounds".

For Indonesian Vice-President Yusuf Kalla, "This is not a clash, but we are protecting the area”. Asked if the Indonesian government had made a decision to be more assertive, he said, "Yes, we will continue."

The Chinese government claims most of the South China Sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. Some US$ 5 trillion in trade goes through the sea.

Beijing has started to build artificial islands with military installations. Indonesia is not directly involved in that dispute, but it has objected to illegal Chinese fishing in its territorial waters.

Beijing justifies its claim by stating that historically its fishermen "were the first" to reach the islands. According to China, historical records back its claim, although they have never been made public.

To counter Beijing’s militarisation of the South China Sea, the Philippines have turned to the United Nations tribunal. The first ruling is expected late this summer, and is likely to go against China, but the latter has said that it would not take it into account.

Tensions have also escalated recently in other disputes, most notably in the East China Sea, after a Chinese warship entered the waters of islands claimed by both japan and China on 9 June.

Meanwhile, two US aircraft carriers are currently taking part in military exercises with Filipino forces, involving 12,000 sailors and 140 aircraft.

In late May, two Chinese military planes apparently intercepted a US spy plane, flying over the South China Sea.

A Vietnamese coast guard plane, which was searching for a missing fighter jet and its pilot, disappeared off the radar on Thursday, near the border with China.

Vietnamese sources claim that China is training 350,000 paramilitary forces to be deployed on 50,000 fishing boats capable of attacking and sinking the boats of its competitors.

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