JAKARTA (Reuters) – President Joko Widodo visited an island in waters disputed by China on Wednesday to say Indonesia’s sovereignty amid a standoff between Indonesian and Chinese language vessels.

The confrontation started in mid-December when a Chinese language coast guard vessel and fishing boats, entered waters in Indonesia’s unique financial zone, off the coast of the northern Natuna islands, prompting Jakarta to summon Beijing’s ambassador.

Widodo advised reporters on Natuna Besar island that the disputed waters belong solely to Indonesia.

“We’ve a district right here, a regent, and a governor right here,” he stated. “There aren’t any extra debates. De facto, de jure, Natuna is Indonesia.”

Widodo additionally met with fishermen on the island. Earlier this week, Indonesia deployed extra ships and fighter jets to patrol the encircling waters. Nursyawal Embun, the director of sea operations on the Maritime Safety Company, stated as of Wednesday morning that two Chinese language coast guard vessels remained, whereas 10 Indonesian ships had been on patrol.

China has not claimed the Natuna islands themselves, however says it has close by fishing rights inside a self-proclaimed 9-Sprint Line that features a lot of the South China Sea – a declare that’s not acknowledged internationally.

In 2017, Indonesia renamed the northern reaches of its unique financial zone within the South China Sea because the North Natuna Sea, as a part of a push again towards China’s maritime territorial ambitions.

The dispute has soured Indonesia’s typically pleasant relationship with China, its largest buying and selling associate and a significant investor in Southeast Asia’s largest nation.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Luhut Pandjaitan, coordinating minister for maritime assets and funding, stated that each Beijing and Jakarta will forge forward with diplomatic discussions.

“What’s the purpose of warfare? Nothing. Wars are the final step to a failing diplomatic course of,” Pandjaitan stated.

China claims a lot of the South China Sea, a worldwide commerce route with wealthy fishing grounds and power reserves, primarily based on what it says is its historic exercise. However Southeast Asian international locations, supported by america and far of the remainder of the world, say such claims haven’t any authorized foundation.

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On Wednesday, Chinese language international ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated Beijing and Jakarta are involved via diplomatic channels. “We want to, with Indonesia, proceed to appropriately take care of variations and uphold peace and stability in bilateral relations and the area,” Geng stated.

The final peak in tensions between Indonesia and China over the South China Sea was in 2016. On the time, Widodo held a gathering with a number of of his ministers on board a naval ship in a present of help.

(The story refiles to edit to consult with Chinese language international ministry spokesman as Geng is second to final par)

Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy, Wilda Asmarini and Stanley Widianto in Jakarta and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Modifying by Matthew Tostevin and Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Requirements:The Thomson Reuters Belief Rules.

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