The Indonesian Air Force has deployed four General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons to the South China Sea on Tuesday in a stand-off with China over its exclusive economic zone, reported Reuters.
The stand-off began last month when Beijing sent a coast guard vessel and commercial fishing boats to the disputed waters off the coast of Indonesia's northern Natuna islands.
Fajar Adriyanto, the air force spokesman, said four F-16 fighter jets have been conducting flight missions over the islands as a deterrent against China.
"They're doing standard patrols to protect our sovereign area. It just so happened that they're patrolling Natuna," Adriyanto said. "We don't have the order to start a war with China."
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Monday that increased Chinese vessels in the disputed waters is a direct violation of international law.
Widodo said there's no negotiation with China when it comes "to our sovereignty."
Indonesian president Joko Widodo told reporters: “There is no negotiation when it comes to our sovereignty.”— Graphenes (@Graphenes1) January 7, 2020
Sends 4 more warships to join 6 already in a standoff with China over the Natuna islands, with China significantly under powered. pic.twitter.com/pNftTWnoK1
In the last week, the Indonesian Navy has ramped up patrols in the same region that is known for vast natural resources, reported Channel News Asia.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday Beijing had "opened diplomatic channels" with Indonesia since the stand-off began, and said "both countries shoulder responsibility for maintaining regional peace and stability."
Reuters notes that ship tracker data shows at least two Chinese ships, Zhongguohaijing and Haijing 3511, were on the edge of Indonesia's exclusive economic zone on Tuesday. Both ships were located on China's "nine-dash line."
Commander of Indonesian Military #TNI 1st Joint Regional Defense Command #Kogabwilhan, Vice Admiral Yudo Margono, show the result of aerial reconnaissance conducted by our Boeing 737-200 Surveillance towards China ship in North #Natuna Sea— JATOSINT (@Jatosint) January 4, 2020
Source: IG Indonesian_airfroce pic.twitter.com/wqd39tAgnT
This isn't the first time both countries have faced a stand-off near Natuna. Indonesia has, for years, deterred Chinese vessels from the region, it's just this time Indonesia has deployed fighter jets as a response to China’s aggression.
What can possibly go wrong at a time when the Middle East is on the verge of war?