Wed, 25 May 2022

Jakarta [Indonesia], January 20 (ANI): Indonesia is embarking on a program to modernize its navy and build up a more effective deterrent to confront future incursions by Chinese ships into the 200-nautical-mile economic exclusion zone (EEZ) along its northern maritime border.

Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan has often stressed the need for what he calls "ocean-going" surface combatants to protect fishery resources from intruding Chinese and other foreign trawlers in the North Natuna Sea, according to Asia Times.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's two home-built Sigma-class and five 1960s-era Van Speijk-class frigates have a limited range of 6,000-9,000 kilometres, only slightly more than most of the navy's core fleet of 24 corvettes, 14 of which were acquired from the former East German navy in 1993 and are nearing retirement thereby constraining Jakarta's maritime reach.

On the other hand, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto has concluded a deal for two British Arrowhead 140 frigates, which will be built at state-run PT PAL's Surabaya shipyard, and also signed a contract for six new Italian FREMM multi-role frigates and two upgraded Italian Navy Maestrale-class light frigates.

Also, Prabowo was a surprise inclusion in President Joko Widodo's Cabinet after losing to the incumbent in the 2019 presidential race. But the former army general has impressed with his grasp of strategic issues and his prioritizing a stronger navy and air force, as reported by Asia Times.

Further, Indonesia is also considering the purchase of two or three squadrons of Boeing F-15EX Eagle II and Dassault Rafale fighter jets to augment a front-line fleet made up of three squadrons of Lockheed Martin F16s and 16 Russian Sukhoi Su-27/30s bought during an extended 15-year American arms embargo.

Meanwhile, the incursion was seen as an attempt by China to enforce its so-called nine-dash line of national sovereignty, which despite extending across most of the South China Sea has no legal basis under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS).

In a sign Beijing may be starting to realize the counter-productive effect of its aggressive actions against Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a forum in Manila this week that China will not use its strength to "bully" its neighbours, as emphasized by Asia Times. (ANI)

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