JAKARTA, Indonesia—Indonesia on Monday protested the Chinese coast guard’s rescue of a ship it says was fishing illegally in Indonesian waters.
An Indonesian fisheries ministry patrol ship had intercepted the Chinese vessel on Saturday within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone which overlaps with the southernmost reaches of the South China Sea, according to Indonesia. Eight crewmen were detained.
The fishing vessel Kway Fey was being towed when a Chinese coastguard vessel collided with it, allowing its escape.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters after meeting with a senior Chinese diplomat that the government wants Beijing to explain its actions. Marsudi said China’s coast guard “violated our sovereignty” and called on China to respect international law.
China’s expansive claims to most of the South China Sea have raised tensions with several Southeast Asian countries, especially as China reclaims land on reefs and builds infrastructure in disputed areas.
Indonesia is not involved in the territorial disputes and Marsudi said that had not changed.
But authorities are concerned an increasingly assertive China might enlarge its claims to include Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. Indonesia’s military chief has said it was strengthening its forces there.
Indonesia has destroyed dozens of foreign ships for illegally fishing in its waters, and maritime and fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti called on Beijing to stand against illegal and unregulated fishing.
Local media reported a similar incident in 2013 when a Chinese patrol vessel snatched back a detained Chinese ship from Indonesian control.