Natuna Islands (photo by Hobe / Holger Behr via Wikimedia Commons)

On May 27 the Indonesian navy intercepted a Chinese fishing boat which was allegedly fishing near Indonesia’s Natuna Islands, a group of 272 islands located in the South China Sea. On Monday Hua Chunying (華春瑩), the spokesperson of China‘s Foreign Ministry, stated at a press conference that China and Indonesia had “different opinions” regarding the incident.

According to Indonesian authorities, on May 27 an Indonesian destroyer intercepted the Gui Bei Yu-27088, a Chinese fishing vessel that was illegally fishing near Natuna Islands in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone. The Indonesian warship communicated with the trawler and fired warning shots, but the Chinese vessel tried to escape into the open sea. Only after the destroyer had shot at the prow of the ship did the Chinese vessel stop. No member of the crew sustained injuries. The 8 Chinese fishermen on board were detained. 

Major Budi Amin, spokesperson of Indonesia’s western fleet command, said that the arrest “was made to show the world that Indonesia will take firm action against ships that violate our territory”. He added that fresh fish was found on the Chinese fishing vessel. The Indonesian military has described the action as a “success in following up the orders of military chief General Gatot Nurmantyo in increasing surveillance at all borders, including the South China Sea”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement on May 30 that “China and Indonesia have different opinions regarding the incident. The Chinese vessel was performing normal operations”. She added that both sides were engaged in discussions and negotiations.

Tensions between China and Indonesia have escalated in recent months. The last incident happened on March 23, when a Chinese coastguard almost intruded into Indonesian waters.

China’s fishing fleet, consisting of approximately 2,000 vessels, is the world’s largest. There have been numerous incidents involving Chinese fishing boats poaching in foreign or disputed waters. On May 23rd three Chinese ships with around 100 crew on board entered without permission South Africa’s waters and were seized on suspicion of illegal squid fishing.