Fri Jan 11, 2019, 11:37 AM

Indonesia arming up in the South China Sea

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, President Joko Widodo has followed through on a two-year-old pledge to strengthen Indonesia’s military presence on Natuna Besar, the largest of several hundred small islands on the southern fringe of the waterway.

Indonesian officials familiar with the plan say the 1,720 kilometer island — the closest large land mass to an increasingly assertive China — will soon be equipped with a surface-to-air missile system, elements of a marine battalion and upgraded air and naval base facilities. The military base was opened in mid-December.

In 2017, the government produced an updated national map in which the country’s 200 nautical mile economic exclusion zone (EEZ) north of the Natuna islands was renamed the North Natuna Sea – a move that subsequently drew protests from China.

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