‘Speak with one voice on sea row’

Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

JAKARTA – Indonesian President Joko Widodo instructed officials Monday to “speak with one voice” on the South China Sea issue, as ministers met yesterday to take a clearer and firmer stance on the maritime dispute and reaffirm Indonesia’s stand on respecting the rule of law.

Indonesia is not a non-claimant country in the South China Sea but seeks to be a mediator and craft a “one size fits all” solution as the decision of the international arbitral tribunal in The Hague on the case the Philippines filed against China is expected in the next weeks.

Indonesia has become increasingly concerned about China’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea as Chinese vessels have repeatedly illegally entered Indonesia’s Natuna waters, the latest incident occurring in May.

Such incursions have raised concerns that China’s 9-dash-line claim to most of the vital sea may overlap with Indonesia’s Natuna Sea and its exclusive economic zone.

Meanwhile, Indonesian scholars and maritime law experts said yesterday China’s ambiguous 9-dash-line claim should not get in the way of Jakarta’s asserting its rights in its EEZ.

In 2009, Beijing submitted to the UN Secretary-General’s Office a map including its 9-dash-line definition of territory, but this was rejected outright.

China has also used internationally unrecognized assertions such as “traditional fishing grounds” in defining its claim.

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