Indonesia has asked Australia to join it for joint military patrols in the South China Sea given to the dispute involving different nations. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced that he will discuss on this “very important” matter with Australia.
Widodo is scheduled to pay a state visit to Sydney this weekend for the first time since he became the president in 2014. The Indonesian president said that he would prefer joint patrolling but only if that does not escalate tensions with China. “If there is no tension I think it’s very important to have the patrols together. We will discuss this with PM Turnbull,” Widodo said, mentioning Aussie Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Indonesia is a nation that has been in a neutral position over South China Sea dispute. It acts as a buffer between China and other nations, claiming their ownership over parts of the Sea, especially the Philippines and Vietnam. China has claimed its right over almost entire South China Sea, which is a gateway to about $5 trillion worth of trade passes in a year. On the other hand, other nations, including Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan, have claimed on parts of the sea.
While Widodo wanted Australia to support it in a joint patrolling in the South China Sea, former Australian defense Force chief Sir Angus Houston issued a warning against any idea that might block controversial artificial island fortresses of Beijing being constructed across the strategic Asia waterway. “In terms of the question about freedom of navigation within the 12-mile limit, I don’t think we need to do that, I think that could provoke a military response and I don’t think that would be a good idea,” The Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying.
It was earlier this week when US Admiral of the Pacific Fleet Harry Harris called Houston to give a response to Beijing’s ownership of the South China Sea islands. The warning from Houston has come following the call from the US army chief.
Indonesia, Australia Controversy Prior to South China Sea Issue
In January, Australia and Indonesia were involved in a dispute following the “insensitive” use of some training materials during a military exercise. Though Australian authorities apologized for whatever happened, they also said that there was no intention of hurting the sentiments of Indonesia. The matter has, however, been resolved.
Australia has maintained that it never takes any nation’s side in the South China dispute. However, it seemed supporting the US-led freedom of navigation in the area.