Indonesian Navy Fires Warning Shots At Chinese Fishing Boats In The South China Sea

There was another incident in the South China Sea this weekend, and shockingly it did not involve the US.

The Indonesian navy said that it had fired warning shots on Friday at Chinese fishing boats operating in the Natuna Sea, an area that Indonesia claims as an exclusive economic zone. The incident is the third confrontation of its kind this year the FT reports. China's foreign ministry said that one boat had been damaged and one sailor shot (a claim that Indonesia has denied) during the altercation, which China believes to have occurred in "traditional Chinese fishing grounds."

Indonesia's fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti reportedly said on Twitter that the shots were fired "according to procedure" as the navy defended Indonesia's sovereignty.

Aaron Connelly, a Southeast Asian researcher at the Lowy Institute added some insight as to why the Chinese fishing vessels were down near the Natuna Sea "Chinese fishing fleets, whether directed by the state or not, are going further and further south because they have overfished the waters near Hainan. It may also be strategically driven because Indonesia has stepped up fisheries enforcement in the Natuna Sea and China may want to send a message that it won't be pushed around." Again we note that it is critical to understand that China is quite focused on mitigating any further social unrest, and as pork prices have increased, another source of protein would be from the fishing industry. If the waters near Hainan are indeed overfished, then it makes complete sense that the vessels would extend further south.

As a quick reminder, here is a map showing the overlapping claims that many countries believe they have in the South China Sea:

Here is a different version that shows China's claim being noticeably close to the Natuna Sea where this incident took place:

The incident further drives tensions in the region, and occurs just as China has threatened to leave the UN Sea Convention if a court ruling from The Hague sides with the Philippines in a South China Sea territorial dispute.