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Jakarta: An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters. The area is claimed by Indonesia as one whose economic rights lie with the country. The area is near the southernmost part of China’s disputed South China Sea claims.

The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency said it detected Chinese ship ‘5204’ entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone Friday night. Indonesia calls the area the ‘North Natuna’ waters. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within a kilometre (0.6 mile) of the Chinese coast guard vessel. Officers on the ship communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, said Aan Kurnia, chief of the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency.

“We asked them to move out as it was Indonesia’s EEZ. But they insisted that it is China’s nine-dash- line territory. Our officers at the vessel argued with them until they moved out,” Kurnia said. He said he reported the incident to Indonesian government ministers. “The Chinese coast guard vessel finally left the North Natuna Sea Monday at 11:20am,” informed Kurnia.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin indicated that China saw nothing wrong with the ship’s actions. He said the two countries are in contact over ‘relevant maritime issues’.

“China’s rights and interests in the relevant waters of the South China Sea are clear,” Wang said at a daily briefing Tuesday. “As far as I know, Chinese coast guard vessels have been performing normal patrols in the waters under China’s jurisdiction,” he added.

China’s ‘nine-dash line’ delineates its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. A 2016 international arbitration ruling involving the Philippines invalidated most of China’s sweeping claims in the sea, but China has ignored the ruling and called it a sham.

Indonesia does not have a territorial claim to the South China Sea, but a section of its exclusive economic zone that includes natural gas fields lies within China’s ‘nine-dash line’.

Chinese ships have regularly entered the area Indonesia calls the ‘North Natuna’ Sea, causing tensions between the countries.

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