Indonesia will prioritise development in its outer regions in a bid to “secure sovereignty” over the archipelago’s vast waters, as tensions continue in the South China Sea.
In the annual state address to parliament on Tuesday, President Joko Widodo, commonly referred to as Jokowi, covered a range of topics from the country’s ongoing battle with addressing poverty to terrorism and security.
Among the issues that gained applause were efforts to secure the nation’s sovereignty.
To this end, Jokowi said they were “prioritising” development in the country’s outer regions like Entikong in West Kalimantan, Natuna Islands in the north and Atambua near East Timor.
“The world will see Indonesia is a big nation, and every inch of its land is being paid attention to wholeheartedly,” he added.
The comment came shortly after he raised ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, which he said Indonesia was “actively involved” in resolving peacefully.
He then mentioned the recent ruling on the case between China and the Philippines at the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, which dismissed China’s “historical rights” to large swathes of the hotly contested waters.
China has dismissed the ruling.
Jokowi’s reference is in contrast to a recent joint statement released by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China last month over the dispute in which the ruling was not mentioned.
The watered down statement sparked criticism that China was exerting its control over the region and ASEAN had been shown to be powerless.
On Wednesday – as part of Indonesia’s Independence Day celebrations and another show of its sovereignty – the government is planning to sink more than 70 ships found to have been illegally fishing in its waters.
Among those captured are Chinese vessels.
In June, Jokowi went on a much-publicised visit to the Natuna islands after a number of Chinese vessels were found in the surrounding waters.
China says the waters are part of its traditional fishing ground – a claim Indonesia dismisses.