To increase its military defenses in the South China Sea, the government is preparing to establish an F16 fighter jet squadron in Pekanbaru, Riau Islands, and an Apache helicopter squadron near the South China Sea.
Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said the government had decided upon the measure to safeguard Asia’s largest gas field exploration at Riau Islands’ East Natuna field, formerly known as the Natuna-D Alpha block, which is set for development in the near future.
“Oil and gas production in the South China Sea is immense and we are about to develop the biggest gas field in Asia. We need to secure it as a national strategic object,” Purnomo said Saturday on the sidelines of the launch of five attack missile boats and one fast patrol boat at the Batu Ampar container port in Batam, Riau Islands.
During the event, Purnomo said investment in the country’s defense system had been extensive over the past five years, adding that the amount was three times larger than the investment during the 2005-2009 government administration and five times larger than the 2000-2004 administration.
The former energy and mineral resources minister said the F16 squadron would enhance the existing fighter squadron in Pekanbaru, which is home to a number of Hawk 100 and 200 weapons system jets.
“There will be a LIFT [lead-in fighter trainer] fighter jet, Hawk 100 and 200 jets as well as the latest series of F16 C/D jets. [We need them] because there are many strategic projects in the area,” Purnomo said, while declining to comment on the disputes in the South China Sea.
Indonesia has been warned that the territorial disputes over certain islands in the South China Sea is a real threat that could sooner or later impact this country.
Head of the Maritime Security Coordinating Board (Bakorkamla), Vice Adm. Desi Albert Mamahit, said Indonesia’s waters off Riau Islands were not part of the disputed territory. However, they were very close to the area and China had not yet clarified what claims it would make regarding Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone around them.
“This is clearly a real threat for Indonesia,” said Desi, who is also rector of the Indonesia Defense
He said Indonesia needed to be prepared to deal with any move made by any party involved in the disputes.
He said China had claimed ownership over the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands by saying the waters around them were traditional Chinese fishing areas, even though they are located thousands of kilometers from the Chinese mainland.
At the same time, a number of ASEAN member states, namely Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam, also claim ownership over territory in the South China Sea.
“This is complicated as there are conflicts between fellow ASEAN member countries and China. It makes it difficult to speak with one voice, although so far ASEAN solidarity has been maintained,” Desi said.