Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA) - Three Indonesian naval ships found many Chinese coast guard and fishing vessels remain in Indonesia's exclusive economic zone near Natuna waters on Saturday or four days after President Joko Widodo's recent visit to Natuna District in Riau Islands Province.

The Indonesian warships drove the Chinese fishing boats out of the Indonesian EEZ when they were attempting to spread their fishing nets, Commander of Joint Defense Regional Commands (Kogabwilhan) I Rear Adm. Yudo Margono revealed.

If the Chinese fishing vessels remain in the Indonesian EEZ, they would be apprehended and tried in court. President Jokowi has ordered the Indonesian authorities to take stern action against those violating the Indonesian EEZ, he said.

"Do not let the Indonesia-China relationship get disrupted by the Chinese fishing vessels' illegal activities," Margono said in a press statement after joining an aerial reconnaissance of the Indonesian Air Force's reconnaissance aircraft on Saturday.

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Escorted by six Chinese coast guard vessels and a Chinese ship from its maritime surveillance agency, the Chinese fishing boats were found spreading their fishing nets for poaching.

In responding to this situation, the Indonesian naval ships (KRI) Usman Harun-359, KRI Jhon Lie-358, and KRI Karel Satsuitubun-356 maneuvered in their efforts to expel the Chinese fishing vessels from the Indonesian EEZ.

Margono said he had ordered the commander of the Navy's First Fleet Command to communicate with those on board of the foreign vessels that violate the Indonesian EEZ rights near the Natuna waters.

For China's coast guard vessels escorting the Chinese fishing boats for poaching in the Indonesian EEZ, he said the on-duty Indonesian officers try to give them understanding about the principles of international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982.

Both Indonesia and China ratified the 1982 UNCLOS so that Beijing must implement and respect it, he said.

On Wednesday, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), accompanied by several top military and civilian figures, visited Natuna District to observe a fleet and meet fishermen amid China's ongoing violations in the Indonesian EEZ.

The presidential entourage comprised Military (TNI) Commander Air Chief Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto, Presidential Chief of Staff General (retired) Moeldoko, Deputy Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Surya Tjandra, and Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rahman.

The Natuna waters have again drawn the attention of national and international media outlets after Chinese coast guard vessels and fishing boats repeatedly violated the Indonesian EEZ rights.

The Chinese vessels were found escorting tens of Chinese fishing boats to poach in Indonesia's EEZ near the Natuna waters on December 19 and December 24, 2019.

In response to these ongoing violations, President Jokowi was unequivocal in his declaration that Indonesia will not negotiate with any party over its sovereignty, particularly regarding the country's territory in the Natuna waters in Riau Islands.

"There is no negotiation regarding matters pertaining to sovereignty and our territory," the president remarked at the opening of a recent cabinet session at the State Palace.

Over these past four years, the Chinese coast guard vessels have repeatedly violated Indonesia's EEZ rights.

In March 2016, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi had also lodged a protest with the Chinese Charge d'affaires in Jakarta Sun Weide over Chinese coast guard violations in the Indonesian waters.

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Translator: Yuniati JN, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Sri Haryati
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