Indonesian soldiers killed in South China Sea exercise

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 19, 2017

Indonesia has boosted its military presence in the Natuna islands, which are in the southernmost reaches of the South China Sea, in response to Beijing's assertive posture in the region.

It has put rocket launchers on Fiery Cross Reef, a disputed island in the Spratly Islands. The defense systems are able to detect and engage enemy combat divers.

It said the system installed on the islands include anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems.

Fiery Cross Reef is administered by China but also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The approval comes 15 years after China and ASEAN had made a decision to forge a set of guidelines.

Biazon said the favorable ruling of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippines in the territorial dispute over the South China Sea gives the country the moral authority to speak out against China's actions.

Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, despite partial counter-claims from Taiwan and several Asean members including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

He added that both Manila and Beijing will also explore ways of managing their differences to further ease tensions in the South China Sea and to prevent any escalation or possible confrontation.

According to the tribunal's ruling, it found no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources within the Nine-Dash Line.

Chinese government vessels last entered waters in the area on May 8.

The gears "malfunctioned" after the first round of exercises proceeded smoothly, he said.

"We are now verifying this information with our relevant agencies", he said of a report in the Chinese state-run Defense Times that said that China has installed Norinco CS/AR-1 55mm anti-frogman rocket launcher defense systems on Kagitingan Reef to ward off Vietnamese military combat divers.

Under former President Benigno Aquino, the Philippines had adopted a tough stance on China's claims, but the country's anger at the world's second largest economy has become a warm embrace following the election past year of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has declined to push China on territorial issues in hopes of being rewarded with investment and aid.

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