Why there is no ‘new maritime dispute’ between Indonesia and China

In the last two weeks, there have been reports circulating that Indonesia is now officially standing up against China’s claims in the South China Sea.

Two days ago, Ann Marie Murphy wrote for the Pacific Forum PacNet newsletter that “Indonesia formally announces its dispute with China in the South China Sea”.  She claims that, “Indonesian officials on March 12, 2014 announced that China’s nine-dash line map outlining its claim in the South China Sea overlaps with Indonesia’s Riau province, which includes the Natuna Island chain,” in a sign of a “significant policy shift.”

As she did not provide the source of this announcement, I can only speculate or assume that the source came from a piece authored by Zachary Keck The Diplomat ran a few weeks ago claiming that China has started a new “maritime dispute” with Indonesia.

Keck used a news report that cited Indonesian navy commodore Fahru Zaini, an assistant to the first deputy of the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs (Menkopolhukam):

China has claimed Natuna waters as their territorial waters. This arbitrary claim is related to the dispute over Spratly and Paracel Islands between China and the Philippines. This dispute will have a large impact on the security of Natuna waters…[because] China has drawn the sea map of Natuna Islands in the South China Sea in its territorial map with nine dash lines.

Others have also picked up on his statement (see The Jakarta Globe, for example).

This alleged ‘dispute’ then is somehow seen as potentially problematic because, as Keck also suggested, Indonesia is beefing up its military presence and infrastructure in the area.

The overall impression therefore is that Indonesia’s defense modernization and deployment plans are somehow driven by China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, and that now Jakarta has officially staked out its policy to challenge Beijing.

This impression is false for several reasons. Continue reading

Advertisements

Regional Order by Other Means? Examining the Rise of Defense Diplomacy in Southeast Asia

With all the commotion happening on the personal front in the past two weeks, I haven’t had the chance to post about a new paper. Recently, my paper on defense diplomacy in Southeast Asia got published in Asian Security, as part of a special issue organized by the good folks at RSIS Singapore.

The journal article is an expanded and revised version of an earlier paper published in an edited volume a year ago (download full book here).

My paper provided an examination of the rise of defense diplomacy in Southeast Asia in the past decade. Furthermore,

By examining multilateral defense diplomacy under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), as well as Indonesia’s bilateral defense diplomacy, this article makes three arguments. First, bilateral and multilateral defense diplomacy in Southeast Asia complement one another. Second, the focus of multilateral defense diplomacy has evolved and now reflects the blurring distinction between nontraditional and traditional security issues. Third, the rise of ARF’s multilateral defense diplomacy can be attributed to the concern over China’s rise, while ASEAN considers it as among the key mechanisms to recover from the fallout of the 1996 Asian financial crisis and the recent regional arms development.

A limited number of eprints are made available by the good folks at Taylor and Francis here. If you can’t download it for whatever reason, drop me a line or DM on twitter @stratbuzz and I’ll be glad to email you the article.