Annoying Beijing: US, Indonesia Plan Regular Navy Drills in South China Sea

Monday, April 13, 2015
By Paul Martin

Jakarta is looking to an already crowded stretch of water, the South China Sea, for regular military exercises with the United States, despite the fact that neither nation holds any official claims in the region.

Jakarta and Washington conducted joint military exercises last week in Batam, an Indonesian island just south of Singapore. Including 88 military personnel and a fleet of American aircraft, the drills stretched 300 miles to the northeast to Natuna Islands, an archipelago alarmingly close to Chinese waters in the South China Sea.

And Indonesia wants to make the exercises an annual event.

“It was the second joint exercise we have conducted with the United States in that area and we are planning another one next year,” Indonesian Navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir said, according to Reuters. “We want to make it routine in that area.”

A collection of over 150 small, uninhabited islands, Natuna belongs to Indonesia. In the past, Jakarta has accused the Chinese government of including parts of the island group within its territorial claims.
Still, officials insist that the exercises are not meant to be a signal to Beijing.

“It is important to remember Indonesia is not involved in any disputes in the South China Sea,” Simorangkir said. “We don’t want an incident in the South China Sea and are committed to the diplomatic approach we have always taken.”

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