JAKARTA: Indonesia said on Monday it had protested to Beijing over the presence of a Chinese coastguard vessel in its territorial waters near the disputed South China Sea, saying it marked a “violation of sovereignty”.
The boat trespassed into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone off the coast of the northern islands of Natuna, Indonesia’s foreign ministry said in a statement. It did not say when the incident occurred.
The ambassador will report back to Beijing, but both sides have decided to maintain good bilateral relations, it said.
Local fishermen saw a Chinese coastguard vessel escorting fishing boats several times in recent days and then reported what they had seen to the Maritime Security Agency, media reports said.
Speaking in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and their waters and that both China and Indonesia have “normal” fishing activities there.
China’s coastguard also carries out regular patrols there, he told a daily news briefing, without directly mentioning the Natuna Islands.
Indonesia has no claims over the Spratly Islands, which lie to the northeast of the Natuna Islands.
However, Jakarta has clashed with Beijing before over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands and has also expanded its military presence in the area.
Beijing has been building artificial islands in the area, developments that have irked members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).