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Indonesia highlights maritime strength amid Chinese incursions into EEZ


Dozens of Indonesian warships and thousands of Navy personnel in late October 2021 simulated battles in which they fended off attacks from the air and water to liberate an enemy-held island.

The Indonesian Navy’s 2021 Amphibious Operations Exercise, known as Latopsfib, was a show of strength at a time when the country is seeing repeated incursions into its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The exercise, which took place October 22-25 near the Riau islands, demonstrated the country’s Integrated Fleet Weapon System, which consists of warships, aircraft, Marines and bases, said Adm. Yudo Margono, Indonesian Navy chief of staff, according to a government website.

“This exercise is to improve the professionalism of the Navy’s soldiers, and operational readiness and as a benchmark for the results of training and integration of components of the Integrated Fleet Weapon System,” Yudo said, according to The Rajawali Times newspaper.

The exercise also highlighted Indonesia’s resolve to protect its territorial waters. “By creating this sense of security, the sea user community is calm and comfortable and can increase people’s confidence in the capabilities of the Indonesian military,” Yudo said. (Pictured: Indonesian Marines participate in an amphibious operations exercise in the Riau islands.)

The amphibious operations came after a Chinese survey vessel recently spent seven weeks in the North Natuna Sea conducting intensive seabed mapping inside Indonesia’s EEZ, the Asia Times news website reported. The 6,900-metric ton Haiyang Dizhi 10 and its Chinese coast guard escort left the EEZ on October 22, 2021, four days before the start of a three-day summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the website reported.

Through its vaguely defined and widely dismissed nine-dash line, the PRC contends it has sovereignty in the area. The Indonesian government hasn’t formally protested the incursions, although the Chinese ships were monitored by up to nine Indonesian Navy and Maritime Security Agency patrol craft, the Asia Times reported.

“I think Indonesia is hedging its bets and not doing anything that will lead to increased tensions,” Malcolm Davis, an Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) analyst, told the website. “If the presumption is that China will be satisfied with that, then Indonesia is in for a big shock.”

Another ASPI analyst told BenarNews that many Indonesian leaders believe they can deal with the PRC’s aggressive behavior and maritime claims through dialogue, which could take a great deal of time.

Meanwhile, “China has been modernizing its military capability, reclaiming islands in the South China Sea and growing in ambition,” said Huong Le Thu, a senior analyst at ASPI. “I don’t think we have all the time like many in Jakarta would assume.”


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