An oil rig in the South China Sea pitted Beijing and Indonesia in secret

An oil rig in the South China Sea pitted Beijing and Indonesia in secret

China asked Indonesia to stop drilling for oil and natural gas in maritime territory that both countries consider their own during a months-long confrontation in the South China Sea at the beginning of this year. The unprecedented demand has raised tensions on natural resources between the two countries in a volatile area of ​​global economic and strategic importance.

Three other people, who said they were informed about the matter, confirmed the existence of the letter. Two of those people explained that China made repeated demands that Indonesia stop drilling. The largest nation in Southeast Asia maintains that the southern tip of the South China Sea is its exclusive economic zone under the Convention of the United Nations on the Law of the Sea and named the area the Natuna North Sea in 2017.

China opposed the name change and insists that the waterway lies within its territorial zone in the South China Sea that it marks with a U-shaped “line of nine lines”, a boundary that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague considered that it has no legal basis in 2016.

“(The letter) was a bit threatening because it was the first effort by China’s diplomats to push their nine-line agenda against our rights under the Law of the Sea,” Farhan told Reuters. China is Indonesia’s largest trading partner and second-largest source of investment, making it a key part of Indonesia’s ambition to become a premier economy. Indonesian leaders were silent on the matter to avoid a conflict or diplomatic dispute with China, Farhan and two of the other people who spoke to Reuters said.

Farhan noted that China, in a separate letter, also protested against the Garuda Shield military exercises on land in August, which took place during the confrontation. The exercises, which involving 4,500 US and Indonesian soldiers, they have been a regular event since 2009. This was China’s first protest against them, according to Farhan. “In its formal letter, the Chinese government expressed concern about the stability of security in the area,” he said.


A few days after the plataforma semisumergible Noble Clyde Boudreaux llI will go to the Tuna block in the Natuna sea To drill two appraisal wells on June 30, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel was at the scene, according to movement data from the ship. It was soon joined by an Indonesian Coast Guard ship.

For the next four months, Chinese and Indonesian ships followed each other around the oil and gas field, frequently approaching within a nautical mile of each other, according to an analysis of ship identification data and satellite images from the IAsia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a project led by the United States-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Data and images reviewed by AMTI and the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI), an independent think tank based in Jakarta, show that a Chinese ship, the Haiyang Dizhi 10, arrived in the area in late August and passed the largest part of the next seven weeks moving slowly in a grid pattern to the adjacent D-Alpha Block, an oil and gas reserve also in disputed waters, valued at $ 500 billion according to Indonesian government studies.

On September 25, eThe US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan approached 7 nautical miles from the Tuna Block drilling platform. “This is the first observed case of a US aircraft carrier operating so close to an ongoing engagement” in the South China Sea, AMTI said in a report released in November. Four Chinese warships were also deployed to the area, according to the IOJI and local fishermen.


China is in negotiations with 10 Southeast Asian states, including Indonesia, to develop a code of conduct for the South China Sea, a waterway rich in natural resources that generates at least $ 3.4 billion in annual trade. The talks, under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), restarted this year after being interrupted due to the pandemic. Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance in the South China Sea has raised concerns in Jakarta, four sources told Reuters.

Indonesia has not made any formal claims on areas of the South China Sea under United Nations rules, believing that the extent of its waters is already clearly established by international law.

The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has tried to minimize the tensions between this country and the states of Southeast Asia, and said in a China-ASEAN leaders summit last month that China “will not absolutely seek hegemony or, even less, will intimidate the little ones” in the region. Farhan told Reuters that the Indonesian government publicly downplayed the tension of the confrontation. Its leaders wanted to be “as quiet as possible because, if it leaked out to any medium, it would create a diplomatic incident,” he said.

The temporary platform operated until November 19, after which it made its way into Malaysian waters. Indonesian Security Minister Mahfud MD went to the Natuna Sea last week. He said his visit had nothing to do with China, but said in a public statement that Indonesia would “never give up an inch” of territory.

Drilling was completed on time, according to a spokesperson for Harbor Energy, the operator of the Tuna Block. In a similar confrontation with China in 2017, Vietnam abandoned exploration activities. Harbor Energy is expected to release an update on drilling results on December 9.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.