Indonesian minister to spell out stance on South China Sea to Japan

Kyodo

An Indonesian minister said Tuesday he will visit Japan in April to discuss the former’s stance on territorial disputes and China’s land reclamation work in the South China Sea.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan revealed the plan after talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama.

Luhut said that Indonesia, which claims parts of the waters, although not the fiercely contested Spratly and Paracel island chains, has a clear position on the South China Sea.

He said that while Indonesia is not a claimant to the islands and reefs on which China has been carrying out construction and land reclamation works, it does claim the Natuna Islands and has an interest in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

He added that China had recognized Indonesia’s claim to the Natuna Islands and that his country is interested in maintaining good relations with both China and Japan.

Sugiyama told reporters that he would offer no comment on discussions with Luhut on the South China Sea. “I do not think I am in the position to disclose the conversation because it is an internal diplomatic discussion,” he said.

However, Sugiyama added that he had discussed a series of foreign ministers’ meetings of Association of Southeast Asian Nations scheduled to take place in September. Japan, along with China and South Korea, is an ASEAN dialogue partner.

China’s construction work in the South China Sea has raised tensions in the region, particularly with the islands and reefs’ other claimants — Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.