RI proposes joint patrols with Australia
Following a meeting with Australia’s foreign and defense ministers, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said Friday he had proposed that Indonesia and Australia conduct joint patrols in the eastern South China Sea in the near future to ensure safer waters.
“We have already suggested to Australia the possibility of conducting joint patrols in the eastern part of the South China Sea. We are sure that we will soon create a plan on how to realize it. They have more or less agreed,” he told reporters on Friday.
In a “working dinner” here late Thursday, Ryamizard had met with Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne, neither of whom were available for comment.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi had left Bali after briefly hosting the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) ministers’ meeting, following the death of her father, M. Sidik. She was replaced at the venue by the ministry’s director for Asia-Pacific and African affairs, Desra Percaya.
Desra also declined to comment when questioned.
The Sulu Sea was also discussed by the two neighboring countries as it remains of large concern to Indonesia. Indonesians have become victims of recurring abductions carried out by the Abu Sayyaf militant group and its splinter cells in the southern Philippines.
Since March 24, several Indonesians have been taken hostage by the group in four separate incidents. The Philippines and Indonesia managed to free the hostages, claiming that no ransom was paid.
Indonesia has also been trying to promote peace and stability in the South China Sea, where China, Taiwan and four ASEAN countries — the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia — have overlapping claims. Indonesia is not officially a claimant state.
China claims almost all of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion worth of maritime trade passes each year. China insists all disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks.
Ryamizard said Indonesia had already proposed similar joint patrols with other ASEAN countries in the region, such as Vietnam and Cambodia.
“We have coordinated and established commitments on how to secure the South China Sea and at least a third of the region has been secured. We have secured the areas surrounding Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore,” he said.
“So we’ve basically secured the region without much commotion.”
Stability in the region is a priority for both countries according to their respective white papers. Australia noted in its 2016 defense white paper that a majority of its exports, consisting mostly of coal, iron ore and liquefied natural gas, goes through the South China Sea.
“Australia opposes the use of artificial structures in the South China Sea for military purposes. Australia also opposes the assertion of associated territorial claims and maritime rights which are not in accordance with international law,” the white paper states.
According to the joint press statement, the ministers reiterated their commitment to countering violent extremism and other efforts related to deradicalization.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had previously said Australia would focus on “furthering our already substantial collaboration to combat terrorism and violent extremism, enhancing maritime cooperation and working together to foster stability in the South China Sea” as she recognized Indonesia was an important security partner for Australia.
During the 16th IORA council of ministers meeting, also held on Thursday, Bishop stressed the importance of countries in the region sharing information and experience concerning terrorism.