It has been reported that the Indonesian navy has reportedly fired on Chinese fishing boats in the South China Sea, injuring at least one fisherman.
Beijing has claimed that one of the vessels has been seized and its crew detained by Indonesian forces.
Responding, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying issued a strongly worded statement:
“The Indonesian naval warship has abused their force, to harass and shoot at the Chinese fishing boat and has threatened the safety and property of the Chinese fishermen.
China urges Indonesia not to take further action that complicates, escalates or affects peace and stability, and to adopt a constructive approach to maritime fishery issues.”
The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Non-claimants want the South China Sea to remain as international waters, with the United States conducting “freedom of navigation” operations.
There are disputes concerning both the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime, areas near to sea, boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands. The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.
Foreign ships which illegally fished in Indonesian waters are often destroyed by the Indonesian government, many of them usually are Vietnamese ships. Indonesian waters are also violated by Filipino fishermen on a frequent basis.
In March, Chinese coast guards prevented Indonesian authorities from detaining a Chinese fishing boat near Natunas, although China accepts that the Natuna islands and seas around them belong to Indonesia. The crew were detained by Indonesia earlier, but their fishing boat was rammed free by a Chinese guards vessel while been towed.