Indonesia has revealed for the first time that it complained to China over its issuance of passports that feature a controversial map laying claim to almost the entire South China Sea.
The “nine-dash line” map featured in new Chinese passports was protested by Vietnam and the Philippines when they were released last year.
Immigration officials in both countries said they would refuse to stamp the passports because the map lays claim to disputed territory.
India also complained because disputed territory along its border with China is claimed by Beijing on the map.
Indonesia did not make a public statement when the passports were released, even though the map slices through the natural gas reserves of its Exclusive Economic Zone in the Natuna Sea, where multinationals ExxonMobil and Total are operating.
Foreign minister Marty Natalegawa said that Indonesia did lodge a protest with Beijing after the new passports were issued, sending a diplomatic note to the Chinese embassy in Jakarta a couple of weeks after they were issued.
“We said that usage of that passport should not be inferred as being a recognition of that claim,” he told the Financial Times.
“We exercised nice low key diplomacy but getting our point across.”
Indonesia has played down its territorial dispute with China for fear of damaging relations with Beijing, a key trade and investment partner.
Mr Natalegawa said he accepted that the platform for economic growth provided by peace and stability in Asia could be threatened by China’s emergence as a major power.
“China’s rise, how it transpires, how it plays out will really determine the state of the region, whether it’s part of the solution or part of the problem,” he said.
“In Indonesia on the whole we see China’s rise as an opportunity and not a threat.
“It’s how we respond to it that could become a threat.”
- China’s navy near Malaysia ‘to defend South China Sea’ (chinadailymail.com)
- Vietnam accuses China of firing on fishing boat (chinadailymail.com)
- China drives out Vietnam fishing vessels from South China sea (chinadailymail.com)
- Vietnam accuses China over sea clash (bbc.co.uk)
- Chinese navy flexes muscle in South China Sea (usatoday.com)
- China ‘fired flares’ at Vietnam boat (bbc.co.uk)
- You: China agencies press territorial claims in Asian waters (latimes.com)
- China using Senkakus dispute to test Japan, U.S. (japantimes.co.jp)
- Protest in Vietnam on anniversary of China clash (thestate.com)
- China Holds Landing Exercises in Disputed Seas… (hosted.ap.org)