Indonesia strengthens its military presence in disputed maritime zone
UNTV News • January 8, 2020 • 525
Jakarta – Indonesia has strengthened its military presence in the South China Sea by deploying four warships in response to the presence of Chinese vessels in the area, triggering a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
Defense commander, Yudo Margono, on Tuesday told local media Kompas that a fishing boat and two Chinese coast guards vessels remained in the waters near Natuna Islands, which Jakarta considers as its exclusive economic zone.
However, Beijing claims the islands as its own along with almost all of the South China Sea.
With these ships, the Indonesian armed forces have now deployed 10 military vessels in the area in the face of China’s apparent territorial ambitions.
Chinese fishing boats arrived in Natuna towards the end of December, prompting the Indonesian foreign ministry to summon the Chinese ambassador in Jakarta and send a diplomatic letter defending its territorial sovereignty.
“There is no negotiation when it comes to our sovereignty,” Indonesian president Joko Widodo had said during a Cabinet meeting on Monday.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi issued a statement on Monday asking China to respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which it is a party.
Indonesia’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, on his part, announced ending 120 fishing vessels to the disputed maritime region, which was named North Natuna Sea by Jakarta in 2017.
The dispute over the Natuna Islands dates back to 2016, when Indonesia decided to build military bases in the region following a series of conflicts with Chinese fishing boats.
Besides Indonesia, China is locked in sovereignty disputes over the South China Sea with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Beijing stakes claim on nearly the entire South China Sea region, an area through which $5 billion worth of commercial traffic passes annually, and which boasts large fishing zones and is reportedly rich in oil and gas reserves. EFE-EPA
China’s embassy in Kazakhstan has warned its citizens on Thursday (July 9) to take precautions against an outbreak of pneumonia in the country that it says is more lethal than COVID-19.
It said in a statement on its official website late on Thursday that there had been a “significant increase” in cases in the cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent since mid-June.
On Friday (July 10), however, Kazakhstan’s healthcare ministry branded Chinese media reports based on the embassy statement as “fake news”.
The ministry said its tallies of bacterial, fungal and viral pneumonia infections, which also included cases of unclear causes, were in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declined to comment on the issue directly during a Friday (July 10) briefing in Beijing, instead referring media to “the relevant authorities in Kazakhstan”.
“China also hopes to obtain information on this,” Zhao said.
Kazakhstan, which imposed a second lockdown this week to rein in the coronavirus pandemic, has a tally of almost 55,000 COVID-19 infections, including 264 deaths. The number of new cases rose on Thursday to a daily record of 1,962.
On Tuesday (July 7), state news agency Kazinform said the number of pneumonia cases “increased 2.2 times in June as compared to the same period of 2019”.
In its statement, the Chinese embassy had said pneumonia in Kazakhstan killed 1,772 people in the year’s first half, with 628 deaths in June, including Chinese citizens.
It is unclear whether the said pneumonia it referred to was caused by a virus related to coronavirus or a different strain. (Reuters)
If the United States were willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level, China would “be happy to” participate in trilateral arms control negotiation with the U.S and Russia, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday (July 8).
The U.S. has repeatedly called for China to join in trilateral negotiations to extend a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia that is due to expire in February next year.
Fu Cong, head of arms control department of Chinese foreign ministry, reiterated to reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that China has no interest in joining the trilateral negotiation. (Reuters)
A special office to oversee national security in Hong Kong officially commenced operations on Wednesday (July 8) amidst heavy security.
The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government, charged with overseeing implementation of the controversial new national security law for Hong Kong, held a ceremony in the early hours of the morning.
The new law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.
There was a heavy police presence outside the Metropark Hotel in Hong Kong, which will serve as the temporary headquarters of the new office. Police had erected water barriers and put in place crowd control measures overnight, restricting residents and foreign media from observing the ceremony.
Residents in the area expressed surprise about the rapid speed of opening in the new office, and the apparent lack of advance notice to the community.
“Everything that they have organized is quite secret”, said one resident, a 62-year-old interior designer giving his name as John Lee. “They have to let the citizens be informed earlier.”
The Metropark Hotel in Causeway Bay is located opposite Victoria Park, home of the annual candlelight rallies in memory of China’s bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy crackdown. (Reuters)
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