Indonesia and Australia may start Joint Patrols in the South China Sea
Noriko Watanabe and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The nations of Australia and Indonesia are considering joint patrols in the South China Sea according to various reports. If so, this is a remarkable transformation because both nations were at loggerheads over the crisis in East Timor, that ultimately led to the independence of East Timor based on support from Australia. Therefore, the prospect of joint patrols between Australia and Indonesia bodes well for taking ties to a new level in the area of security.
Ryamizard Ryacudu, the Defense Minister of Indonesia, was extremely positive after meeting the defense and foreign ministers of Australia. Apparently, he suggested joint patrols in the eastern parts of the South China Sea based on the need to shore up greater security and the free movement of shipping.
If – like Ryamizard Ryacudu is suggesting – Australia agrees to joint patrols then this will be a continuation of Indonesia’s outreach policy. After all, other nations, including Vietnam, are pivotal to Indonesia’s policy of preventing any encroachment that threatens to upset the status quo in the South China Sea. At the same time, it provides Indonesia with greater clout because of favorable regional relations.
Indonesia is concerned about the Natuna Islands because this area is an exclusive economic zone but China’s encroachment is a concern. Yet, unlike other regional nations with territorial disputes with China – for example, Vietnam and Japan – then Indonesia is on the sidelines.
Despite this, the importance of the flow of energy and commercial ships from the Middle East to East Asia – alongside the significance of the South China Sea – means that geopolitics is an instrumental issue for Indonesia. This reality means that Indonesia is focused on international law, strengthening security with regional nations, protecting the freedom of shipping, cooperating with regional institutions, and other important areas based on national security.
In turn, nations like America and Japan will welcome measures being taken by Indonesia. This is based on political elites in Washington and Tokyo being worried by the ambitions of China. However, despite this, Indonesia still hopes to broker positive relations with China but based on greater strength based on joint regional initiatives and strengthening regional organizations. Therefore, while nothing is currently set in stone in relation to joint patrols between Australia and Indonesia, it does shed light on the ambitions of political elites in Jakarta.
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