Professor of International Law at the University of Indonesia (UI) Hikmahanto Juwana made the remark in connection with Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti's statement during the sinking of foreign vessels in Pontianak on Saturday, May 4.
Minister Pudjiastuti remarked that the Vietnamese fishing vessels were impounded at the coordinates of Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The minister has expressed regret over observers claiming that the apprehension was done in an area still disputed between Vietnam and Indonesia.
"In accordance with Minister Susi's statement, Indonesia, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, can lodge a diplomatic protest with the Vietnamese government over its coast guard vessel trespassing into Indonesia's exclusive economic zone (EEZ)," Professor of International Law at the UI Juwana noted in Jakarta on Monday.
Nonetheless, Juwana opined that the Indonesian government should present a unified voice prior to lodging a diplomatic protest.
Seconding Juwana's view, Rear Admiral Yudo Margono, commander of the Indonesian Navy’s 1st Fleet, pointed out that the clash occurred in Indonesia’s EEZ, and the Navy ship’s attempt to impound the Vietnamese illegal fishing boat was in accordance with the legal procedures.
However, Vietnam too claims this area of the sea exclusively.
Margono's statement shows that Indonesia and Vietnam have overlapping claims over the area.
"The statement of Rear Admiral Yudo Margono is certainly not in line with Minister Susi's statement," he noted.
If the Foreign Affairs Ministry is planning to lodge a diplomatic protest with the Vietnamese government over violations of Indonesia’s EEZ, then the Indonesian government should present one voice.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry must gain certainty on the arrest of Vietnamese fishermen in terms of whether they were in the disputed area, Hikmahanto explained.
"Be careful, lest the diplomatic protest lodged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could have a counterproductive effect on bilateral relations between Vietnam and Indonesia," he cautioned.
Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla had earlier admitted to ongoing negotiations between Jakarta and Hanoi over their shared EEZ in the area.
"This is since the matter is yet being negotiated. This particularly holds significance over the incident that occurred in the Natuna waters. Discussions are yet underway over the continental boundary," Kalla stated.
Kalla confirmed that Indonesia and Vietnam had yet to reach a border agreement.
Hence, Indonesia and Vietnam have worked towards defending their respective positions.
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