Indonesian president visits island in waters disputed by Beijing
UNTV News • January 8, 2020 • 256
Jakarta – The president of Indonesia on Wednesday visited an island in disputed waters of the South China Sea amid a weeks-long standoff between Indonesian and Chinese vessels, an outgrowth of the ongoing territorial spat in which Jakarta and Beijing both claim sovereignty over the area.
Joko Widodo made the symbolic trip to Natuna Besar – the main island of the Middle Natuna Archipelago in the Riau Islands province – in a bid to assert Indonesia’s claims of ownership of the waters. There, he met with local fishermen and talked to reporters.
“I am here too to ensure law enforcement for our sovereign rights – our country’s sovereign rights – over the richness of our marine natural resources in the exclusive economic zone,” Widodo said. “Why are Bakamla (the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency) and the Navy here? To ensure the rule of law.”
The leader, who was re-elected to a second term in April of last year, added that Indonesia had a district, a regent and a governor in the area. “There are no more debates. De facto, de jure, Natuna is Indonesia.”
Meanwhile, Geng Shuang, the main spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Wednesday that Beijing had repeatedly reiterated its sovereignty and jurisdiction over relevant waters in the South China Sea.
“I have to stress that China and Indonesia have no territorial sovereignty disputes. Our claims for maritime interests in certain waters in South China Sea overlap,” Geng said. “We are ready to properly handle the differences with Indonesia and uphold the peace and stability in the region as well as our two countries’ relations. Actually, we have been in communication through diplomatic channels.”
The face-off between the two Asian nations erupted in the second half of December when a Chinese coast guard ship that was escorting several fishing vessels entered waters that Jakarta says belong to its EEZ (though Beijing claims the waters as its own, along with most of the South China Sea).
In response to the incursion, Indonesia summoned the Chinese ambassador, issued a letter of protest and sent warships and fighter jets to strengthen its military presence in the area, which it re-named the North Natuna Sea in 2017. Beijing, in turn, deployed another coast guard boat.
On Tuesday, Indonesia sent four more warships as reinforcement. The Southeast Asian country currently has a naval presence of 10 military vessels around Natuna.
The dispute over the Natuna Islands dates back to 2016, when Indonesia decided to build military bases in the region following a series of conflicts with Chinese fishing boats.
Besides Indonesia, China is locked in sovereignty disputes over the South China Sea with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Beijing stakes claim on nearly the entire South China Sea region, an area through which $5 billion worth of commercial traffic passes annually, and which boasts large fishing zones and is reportedly rich in oil and gas reserves. EFE-EPA
Prices of face masks spiked nearly 10 times in Indonesia triggered by fears over the spread of the deadly coronavirus, as a consumer group head urged the authorities to step in to regulate the growing price.
A seller Bambang Darmadi in Jakarta’s Pramuka market that sells medical equipment told Reuters a box of 50-piece mask is now being sold for around 20 dollars, compared to approximately two dollars before the outbreak. He said the prices increase daily by nearly a dollar.
Over 1,300 people had died from the flu-like virus on Wednesday (February 13) and more than 60,000 people have been infected.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has so far not recorded any cases.
But locals have been hoarding masks on worries that prices will increase should there be an outbreak in the country of 260 million people.
Locals said they could not find new masks in many places and had to wear their old ones over and over.
The price-gouging selling is not due to scarcity but due to hoarding practice in the ‘middle level’ like distributors for the return of higher profit, head of Indonesian Consumer Foundation said.
“Someone has distorted the market. We ask the government to regulate ceiling price for health equipment like masks,” said Tulus Abadi, adding that there is no regulation on price setting.
Authorities around the world sought to calm panic buying of masks seen as a guard against the fast-spreading coronavirus. Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines had arrested nearly a dozen of people for selling overpriced masks, according to local reports. (Reuters)
An advance World Health Organization team of medical experts arrived in China on Monday (February 10) to investigate the coronavirus outbreak, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.
Tedros, who visited Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese ministers in late January, returned with an agreement on sending an international mission. It took nearly two weeks to get the Chinese government’s green light on its composition.
Tedros said there had been “concerning instances” of transmission from people who had not been to China.
“It could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire,” he told reporters. “But for now it is only a spark. Our objective remains containment.”
The virus has spread to at least 27 countries and territories, according to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more than 330 people. The two deaths outside mainland China were in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
The death toll from the outbreak has now surpassed that of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed hundreds worldwide in 2002/2003. (Reuters)
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