Why can't a Chinese Indonesian become president?

Indonesia reaffirms claims against China in the marine area

Conflicts are mounting between the two countries. Chinese fishermen sail into Indonesian waters with Coast Guard escorts. Jakarta, on the other hand, is strengthening its fleet and air force in the Natuna archipelago.

During a troop visit to the South China Sea, Indonesian President Joko Widodo reaffirmed his country's determination to defend his marine area there against claims by China. Widodo visited an air base in the Natuna Islands and two warships patrolling the islands.

"I am here to ensure that jurisdiction over our marine resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (Indonesia) is enforced," he said. The Indonesian Air Force relocated four US F-16 fighter jets to Natuna after dozens of Chinese fishing vessels accompanied by the Chinese Coast Guard refused to leave the sea area. Jakarta also sent four additional warships on patrol in the region.

For years, China has been in a serious conflict with the other countries bordering the South China Sea over dominance and access to the resources there, namely with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines. Recently there has also been friction with Indonesia, which is in itself far away: from the large Chinese island of Hainan to the next mainland point in Indonesia on the island of Borneo, it is about 1,800 kilometers.

Historical claims contradict UN maritime law

China justifies its claims to almost the entire marine region purely historically and contrary to applicable maritime law: According to this, the exclusive economic zone of a country extends, simply put, up to a maximum of 200 nautical miles (about 370 km) off its coast; if zones of several countries intersect, the borders lie along the lines of intersection or have to be negotiated. In special cases - if the sea floor as a continental shelf is a geologically natural continuation of the mainland - there is also an exclusive right to use the sea floor (but not the water above) up to 350 nautical miles (approx. 650 km) from the coastline.

For years, China has been trying to cement its historical claims by building small islands into military bases and even by turning uninhabitable sandbanks into habitable islands; Exclusive economic zones are proclaimed around these islands.

In 2016, Beijing suffered a legal defeat against the Philippines when the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that the alleged historical rights were worthless in view of UN maritime law and that no zones of claim could be derived around islands artificially stamped out of the sea. As expected, China did not care about the saying.

Exposed archipelago

The Natuna Islands (around 90,000 inhabitants) are about 1570 kilometers from Hainan and, together with some other Indonesian islands, are quite exposed and far to the north, about 250 km from the nearest shore of the Indonesian mainland on Borneo. The islands drive a wedge between the territorial waters of the Indonesian neighbor Malaysia, which is also not welcomed there.

But for some time now, China has also insisted on fishing rights in the distant sea area. There have been multiple clashes between fishing vessels and the coast guard, with China most recently moving to escort the fishermen from coast guard units.

On Tuesday, the Beijing Foreign Ministry said it was looking for a "long-term perspective" of relations with Indonesia and was using diplomatic channels. Indonesia should also keep an eye on the "bigger picture of bilateral relations and regional stability". China is Indonesia's largest trading partner.

(APA / wg)