JAKARTA: Indonesia on Wednesday has deployed fighter jets and warships to protect islands in the area of the contested South China Sea, escalating tensions with Beijing after a diplomatic spat over Chinese vessels “trespassing.”
President Joko Widodo also went to the fishing-rich seas around the Natuna Islands, bordering the South China Sea on Wednesday, many of which China holds despite conflicting claims from other Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.
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In an apparent attempt to exert its control over the area, the Indonesian military said it had deployed eight warships and four jet fighters ahead of Widodo’s visit.
This followed the deployment of around 600 navy, army and air force troops to Natuna as the military launched what it called a routine patrol to secure the area because of the presence of foreign vessels in Indonesian waters.
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Jakarta also said it would send hundreds of fishermen to the area to keep an eye out for foreign warships. The move comes after Indonesia last week summoned the Chinese ambassador and lodged a “serious complaint” over a Chinese coast guard vessel escorting Chinese fishing boats around the islands in mid-December.