Indonesia has started building marine combat force headquarters in Natuna Island, scene of earlier showdowns with Vietnam and China.
The headquarters of the Marine Combat Force of the First Fleet Command will be part of the Combat Operations Executive Command in western Indonesia. It will also function as an Integrated Marine Security Command Post.
On Tuesday, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, chief of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI), laid the cornerstone for the construction of the headquarters. It is expected to help strengthen the Integrated TNI Unit in Natuna in the northernmost area of the Karimata Strait, which shares marine borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Cambodia, Antara news agency, a statutory corporation, reported.
Natuna is an archipelago in the south part of the South China Sea consisting of 272 islands. The archipelago occupies a particularly strategic spot, and its waters contain significant oil and gas reserves. Indonesia's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the coast of Natuna is slightly overlapped by China's widely disputed South China Sea claim.
Around five years ago, the presence of the Indonesian National Armed Forces on the islands was reinforced, which the Indonesian government hoped would reduce the chance of any conflict.
China sent coast guard vessels to escort numerous fishing boats near the Natuna waters in December 2019, claiming to have traditional fishing rights. Indonesia responded with a formal diplomatic protest to Beijing and then deployed to the region a further 600 troops and warships, along with aerial support.