Escalating Tensions in South China Sea as US, China, and Indonesia Clash over Recent Chinese Vessel Incursion into Indonesian Waters.
The Chinese coast guard made a bold move by patrolling near the disputed Natuna Sea, located within Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Indonesia countered this move by deploying a warship, a maritime patrol plane, and a drone for reconnaissance purposes in the valuable area.
Natuna Island is found in the southern part of the South China Sea. The US has also stationed the USS Nimitz near southeast of the island, where a Chinese coast guard vessel was seen, on February 1st.
The presence of a ship in such a highly contested area shows that tensions persist between China and the US.
The presence of a vessel in the South China Sea has been met with support from allies such as Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia, but has caused frustration for rival China.
Precautions by Indonesian Government
To monitor the Chinese ship, an Indonesian Navy warship (KRI Bontang-907) and aircraft (NC212) followed its movements east of the continental shelf boundary. They kept an eye on the vessel until it moved 33 nautical miles away from the Indonesian coast.
The ship’s route indicates that it was sailing close to the Tuna block and the Chim Sao oil and gas field, near the Riau Islands. China and Indonesia are once again in conflict.
The Indonesian government recently approved the first development plan for the Tuna offshore gas field, which is close to the Indonesia-Vietnam maritime boundary.
As per the agreement, the oil extracted from the Tuna region will be supplied to Vietnam through a subsea pipeline. The gas line reaches the coast boundary for 11 km and continues for 60 km to the mainland.
The Tuna field is located in the South China Sea between Indonesia and Vietnam’s Tuna block, which is within Indonesia’s EEZ and falls within the “nine-dash line” that China uses to assert historical rights over around 90% of the disputed South China Sea.
About South China Sea
The South China Sea is a vital maritime route for the transport of over 40% of the world’s liquefied natural gas. This waterway connects the Gulf with the Indian Ocean and other destinations, including China.
It handles a yearly trade value of 3.37 trillion dollars, accounting for one-third of the global maritime trade. Additionally, the seabed of the South China Sea is believed to hold an estimated 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. This has made control of this waterway a crucial priority for China.
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