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Indonesia - South China Sea

The South China Sea is a strategic area bordering Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and China. In some parts there is overlapping jurisdiction between claimant states (Brunei Darussalam, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and China) which makes the potential for conflict in this region quite high.

A statement issued on New Year’s Day 2020 by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs against alleged Chinese encroachments over the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Natunas may prove to be a diplomatic and legal game changer in the increasingly volatile South China Sea. For the very first time, a third party Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) member- state invoked the landmark 2016 arbitral ruling in the South China Sea case filed by the Philippines three years earlier against Chinese expansionist moves in the region. Indonesia’s broadside came following alleged incursions by Chinese coastguard vessels in the Natuna Sea, which lie nearly 1,100 kilometers south of the Spratlys in the South China Sea. It features an archipelago of 271 islands and resource-rich waters.

The Indonesian MFA however said the Chinese claim is without any legal basis under the UNCLOS, adding that its claims of historic rights have all been repudiated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2016 ruling. In addition, Indonesia bluntly rejected any suggestion of bilateral talks with China to delimit what the latter says are overlapping maritime jurisdictions, as there are none to speak of. “Based on UNCLOS 1982, Indonesia does not have overlapping claims with the PRC [People’s Republic of China] so that it is not relevant to have any dialogue on maritime boundary delimitation”.

In 1991 Indonesia initiated a round of multilateral diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to conflicting claims in the South China Sea. In 1992 Indonesia continued to work behind the scenes to achieve the ASEAN-China joint declaration, which called for mutual restraint on territorial claims in the South China Sea.

In an effort to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN member countries issued the ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea signed in Manila on 22 July 1992. The principles contained in this declaration, among others, emphasized the need for peaceful dispute resolution, and encourage exploration of cooperation related to the safety of maritime navigation and communication; protection of the marine environment; coordinating search and rescue; efforts to combat piracy at sea and armed robbery and illegal drug trafficking.

Hasjim Djalal, Indonesia,s foremost maritime law authority and father of presidential advisor Dino Djalal, held a series of multilateral workshops in 1996 to seek creative solutions to joint development in the South China Seas. By 2008 the government did not have a formal positon on the conflicting claims in the South China Sea and had not issued any recent statements on the matter. Indonesia did support resolving all such disputes within the framework of ASEAN's Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

In 2011 during the 44th AMM / PMC / 18th ARF Meeting, in Bali, China and ASEAN successfully agreed on the Guidelines for the Implementation of the DOC (Declaration of Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea). The success of the agreement on the Guidelines, since the signing of the DOC on November 4, 2002, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is a "major breakthrough" as well as one of the "major achievements" in the Indonesian Chairmanship for ASEAN in 2011. The agreement opens opportunities for implementation efforts DOC through the implementation of activities or cooperation projects between ASEAN and China in the South China Sea region and for the initial discussion of the establishment of a regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (CoC) that will function as an operational preventive measure mechanism (operational preventive measure). ) and aims to regulate the behavior of the state effectively (effectively regulating the behavior).

Indonesia continues to be committed to creating a safe, peaceful and stable South China Sea region through various diplomatic efforts. In 2012, addressing different views in responding to the situation in the South China Sea, the Indonesian Foreign Minister on 18-19 July 2012 approached and conducted intensive consultations (shuttle diplomacy) with ASEAN Foreign Ministers regarding joint positions. This effort resulted in the agreement of the ASEAN Six Points Principles on the South China Sea on July 20, 2012.

Indonesia is not party to the disputes centering on contested areas of the South China Sea. It does have the largest natural gas field in the South China Sea, the Natuna D-Alpha block production sharing contract (PSC), which contains an estimated 46 trillion cubic feet of commercially recoverable gas, according to government and industry contacts. The Natuna D-Alpha block sits on the maritime demarcation with Malaysia. The two countries agreed on their shared maritime boundaries in 1972. In June 2003, Vietnam and Indonesia signed a bilateral resolution on their disputed maritime boundary in the Natuna Sea. As a result, Indonesia won back the former VAMEX block 08/97 and Vietnam retained block 7.




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