Special to WorldTribune.com
Indonesia’s defense minister called China’s intruding coast guard vessels “thieves” and vowed to deploy U.S. F-16 fighter jets to the Natuna islands.
“Natuna is a door, if the door is not guarded then thieves will come inside,” said Ryamizard Ryacudu, a former army chief of staff. “There has been all this fuss because until now it has not been guarded. This is about the respect of the country.”
Indonesia’s statement came two weeks after Chinese coast guard vessels clashed with an Indonesian boat in the area.
Ties with Indonesia have been prized by Beijing because it has not joined its neighbors in protesting aggressive China’s maritime ambitions in the South China Sea.
The move is in response to China’s ongoing military buildup in the region and includes plans for new runway and port. It also involves the deployment of marines, air force special force units, an army battalion, three frigates, a new radar system and drones, he told Bloomberg.
Indonesia has expressed heightened concerns about territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and several of its Southeast Asian neighbors. Indonesia had not been a party to the disputes until the recent incident with Chinese vessels.
The increased activity by Chinese vessels to the ships of other countries has also caused friction with Malaysia. China’s Ambassador Huang Huikang was summoned over the alleged intrusion by Chinese-flagged boats in the South China Sea, the government said yesterday.