The PRC's Territorial Claims Are More Than Just a Map
Jakarta – In late August 2023, the People's Republic of China (PRC) released a new map that reaffirmed its territorial claims over a significant portion of the South China Sea (SCS), including Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the waters near Natuna.
Indonesia's firm response to these claims garnered appreciation from various quarters, including Professor Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law expert from the University of Indonesia.
During a discussion titled "China's New Map and Tensions in Southeast Asian Waters" organized by the Indonesian Sinology Forum (FSI), Professor Hikmahanto expressed his support for Indonesia's resolute stance.
He stated, "Indonesia is friendly with everyone until our sovereignty is disrupted. Therefore, we should not allow interference in Indonesia's sovereignty and territorial rights."
Hikmahanto also highlighted three steps that Indonesia should take in confronting China's territorial claims. First, Indonesia must continue to assert that China's nine-dash-line claim lacks a basis in international law and should take legal action if Chinese fishermen enter Indonesia's EEZ.
Second, Indonesia should disregard China's protests against the exploitation of natural resources in this EEZ. Third, Indonesia should refuse to initiate negotiations concerning overlapping territorial claims with China.
Hikmahanto also emphasized the different approaches of Indonesia and China when it comes to claiming territory. Indonesia pursues its claims through diplomatic efforts in international forums, whereas China has not been successful in garnering international support for its claims.
China's claims have also led to tensions with neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Brunei.
Furthermore, Hikmahanto warned that China's claims in the SCS, including near Natuna, have become increasingly aggressive due to China's population growth and its growing need for natural resources. He urged the Indonesian government to remain vigilant in the face of China's aggression in the SCS.
Adding his perspective, Johanes Herlijanto, Chairman of the Indonesian Sinology Forum (FSI), remarked, "There are several interpretations of China's actions. First is China's version, which claims that publishing the map is routine. Second is the analysis suggesting that the map's publication serves China's internal interests, to demonstrate the government's commitment to defending its territory."
However, Johanes emphasized that the release of the map should primarily be seen as China's signal to regional countries that it still maintains its claims in the SCS and other areas.