South Korea, Japan and the United States are keen to invest in Indonesia’s Natuna Islands with Indonesian President Joko Widodo stepping up efforts to rebuff foreign claims over the resource-rich waters in the South China Sea.
In a statement, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters, these countries are interested in building manufacturing industries and fisheries processing units in Natuna.
Indonesia can manage the dispute over the resource rich waters of the South China sea without having to go to war, said Pandjaitan, a former Indonesian general.
“The US investors have expressed their interest, along with investors from Japan, Korea and China,” said Padjaitan. “For us, it doesn’t matter where they come from.”
With regular Chinese intrusion into Indonesian waters which Jakarta sees as its exclusive economic zone, Widodo’s efforts to lure foreign investment into the Natuna islands is likely to ratchet up tension with Beijing.
China has let it be known it has no territorial disputes with Jakarta’s claims in certain waters in the South China Sea.
“War is the last resort in our negotiation process,” said Pandjaitan while referring to the standoff with China on Natuna.
He went on to add, “But under no circumstances will we negotiate our sovereignty and territorial rights.”
Last week, Widodo had visited the Natuna islands in an effort to assert Indonesia’s sovereignty over the waters following the deployment of fighter jets and warships in the area to push back Chinese fishing vessels which were accompanied by coast guard ships.
Indonesia is also seeking investment from Vietnamese marine processing companies.
Earlier this week, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had met up with officials from Vietnam’s Hai Nam Co., a seafood importer and had asked it to explore a joint venture with Indonesian companies for a fisheries processing unit in areas including Natuna.
A location for a fishing port has already been identified in north Natuna while southern Natuna will serve as a base for the navy, said Pandjaitan while adding, the Indonesian navy will soon acquire its first ocean-going vessel, to beef up its sea powers.