Jakarta’s ties with Beijing could be tested by South China Sea clashes, think tank warns

Indonesia has “vigorously promoted” ties with China but potential clashes in the South China Sea could test these thriving relations, a leading Chinese think tank has warned.

Jakarta can maintain its friendship with Beijing amid “dramatic geopolitical changes” will require “superb political wisdom,” according to Luo Yongkun, deputy director of Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

In a commentary published on Thursday, the research professor at the state-owned think tank in Beijing highlighted Indonesia’s choice to develop bilateral ties with China – in spite of the United States’ regional strategy to curb Beijing’s influence.

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“The US is vigorously promoting its ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’ and encouraging Southeast Asian countries to choose sides. However, Indonesia has not joined the US ‘anti-China camp’ and instead vigorously promoted relations with China,” said Luo, who was named a “Presidential Friend of Indonesia” in 2010.

Over his decade-long tenure, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has strengthened ties with China, with bilateral economic cooperation reaching new heights. A “2+2” dialogue mechanism for the two countries’ foreign ministers and defense ministers was agreed upon in October.

Indonesia is not a claimant in the South China Sea, Luo said, but Jakarta and Beijing face “maritime delimitation disputes.” Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone in the North Natuna Sea falls within China’s “nine-dash line” – Beijing’s territorial claim in the waterway.

Prabowo and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on April 3. Photo: EPA-EFE alt=Prabowo and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on April 3. Photo: EPA-EFE>

Luo noted that “in the current context, if a conflict breaks out in the South China Sea, China-Indonesia relations, China-Asean relations, and the regional order centered on Asean will face severe tests, or trigger changes in the regional geopolitical structure , which is not in the interests of all parties in the region”.

It was “imperative” for China and Indonesia to lead regional nations in strengthening cooperation and jointly managing disputes concerning the South China Sea, Luo concluded.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2024 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2024. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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