Tag Archives: Indonesia

China’s Nine-Dashed Line Faces Renewed Assault

By Scott Cheney-Peters

China’s ambiguous claim to the South China Sea, approximately demarcated by a series of hash marks known as the “nine-dashed line,” faced objections from an expanding number of parties over the past two weeks. While a challenge from the United States came from an unsurprising source, actions by Indonesia and Vietnam were unexpected in their tone and timing.

8-e48b8c470eOn December 5th, the U.S. State Department released its analysis of the compatibility of China’s nine-dashed line with international law. The report attempted to set aside the issue of sovereignty and explore “several possible interpretations of the dashed-line claim and the extent to which those interpretations are consistent with the international law of the sea.” The analysis found that as a demarcation of claims to land features within the line and their conferred maritime territory, the least expansive interpretation, the claim is consistent with international law but reiterated that ultimate sovereignty is subject to resolution with the other claimants.

As a national boundary, the report went on, the line “would not have a proper legal basis under the law of the sea,” due to its unilateral nature and its inconsistent distance from land features that could confer maritime territory. Alternately, although many commentators have indicated China bases its claims on “historic” rights pre-dating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, the report argued that the history China points to does not fit the narrow “category of historic claims recognized” in UNCLOS under which historic rights may be conferred. Lastly, the report noted that as China has filed no formal claim supporting its nine-dashed line, the ambiguity over the exact nature and location of the line itself undermines under international law China’s argument that it possesses maritime rights to the circumscribed waters, concluding:

“For these reasons, unless China clarifies that the dashed-line claim reflects only a claim to islands within that line and any maritime zones that are generated from those land features in accordance with the international law of the sea, as reflected in the LOS Convention, its dashed-line claim does not accord with the international law of the sea.”

Although such analysis reflects prior U.S. policy positions, less expected were the pointed signals from Indonesia, which has built a reputation as a mediator among ASEAN states in dealing with China and striven to downplay the overlap by the nine-dashed line of its own claimed exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea from Natuna Island. On Tuesday at the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, senior Indonesian presidential advisor Luhut Binsar Panjaitan emphasized that the country was “very firm” that its “sovereignty cannot be negotiated,” while stressing the importance of dialogue to peacefully manage matters. Further, in response to a question from an audience member, Panjaitan stated (56:00 mark in the video below) that the development of gas fields offshore Natuna in cooperation with Chevron would “give a signal to China, ‘you cannot play a game here because of the presence of the U.S.’” Meanwhile Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti noted that after sinking Vietnamese vessels the Indonesian Navy said it had captured illegally fishing she was considering sinking 5 Thai and 22 Chinese vessels also caught.

As Prashanth Parameswaran notes at The Diplomat, Indonesia is playing a balancing act – seeking at the same time to protect its sovereign interests as it attempts to align new president Joko Widodo (Jokowi)’s “Maritime Axis”/“Maritime Fulcrum” initiative with Xi Jinping’s “Maritime Silk Road” and play a leading role in China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. To some observers, sinking the Thai and Chinese boats is now necessary to preserve Indonesia’s image of impartiality, while others believe such action may be redundant if China heeds the warning that such behavior will no longer be tolerated.

Vietnam too took surprise action over the nine-dashed line, in a move long-mooted but unexpected in its timing. Vietnam’s foreign ministry announced last week that it had filed papers with the Hague arbitral tribunal overseeing the case submitted by the Philippines, asking that its rights and interests be considered in the ruling. Vietnam supported the Philippines position arguing that China’s nine-dashed line is “without legal basis.” While a regional source in The South China Morning Post noted that the action was as much about protecting “Vietnamese interests vis-à-vis the Philippines as it is directed against China,” and Professor Carlyle Thayer described it as “a cheap way of getting into the back door without joining the Philippines’ case,” Thayer also told Bloomberg News that it “raises the stature of the case in the eyes of the arbitrational tribunal.”

China-Vietnam-RigIf the actions taken by the United States, Indonesia, and Vietnam were surprising, China’s reactions were not. On December 7th, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a white paper of its own on the Philippines’ arbitration case. The document states that China’s policy, as established in its 2006 statement on UNCLOS ratification, is to exclude maritime delimitation from compulsory arbitration. Additionally, the paper says that while the current arbitration is ostensibly about the compatibility of China’s nine-dashed line with international law, “the essence of the subject-matter” deals with a mater of maritime delimitation and territorial sovereignty. The paper goes on to say that until the matter of sovereignty of the land features in the South China Sea is conclusively settled it is impossible to determine the extent to which China’s claims exceed international law.

In effect, China is taking the position that only after it has conducted and conclude bilateral sovereignty negotiations will its nine-dashed line be open to critique. While the foreign ministry may be right that the Philippines is attempting to force the issue of territorial sovereignty, its argument that this prevents scrutiny of the nine-dashed line’s accordance with international law rings hollow.

At the end of the day, China has repeatedly stated, and its new policy paper affirms, that it will “neither accept nor participate in the arbitration” initiated by the Philippines. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei likewise remarked of Vietnam’s filing with the tribunal that “China will never accept such a claim.” So it is prudent to ask what benefit will come of the legal maneuvers. Some, such as Richard Javad Heydarian, a political-science professor at De La Salle University, point to the economic harm already incurred by the Philippines in opportunity costs and the danger of having created a worse domestic and international environment for settling the disputes. Yet given the lengthening list of states willing to stake a legal position on the matter and the moral weight of a potential court ruling, China can claim and attempt to enforce what it wants, but it will be increasingly clear that it is doing so in contravention of international law.

Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founder and president of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), a graduate of Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval War College, and a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council.

Indonesia’s Seaward Shift: A Break from the Past

Jokowi%20oathIn his inaugural speech as the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo communicated a vision of prosperity for his country based on a tradition of maritime trade. Indonesia, he said, is to become a sea-going trading power once again. With a new Ministry of Maritime Affairs and a US $6 billion investment in maritime infrastructure, he’s putting his proverbial money where his mouth is. While this seems like an obvious path for archipelagic Indonesia to take, there are very important reasons why this signals a profound shift in the strategic thinking of the country from an internal threat perception to an external one. Although some analysts believe Jokowi’s pronouncement is code for abandonment of Indonesia’s non-alignment policy, it is likely his words had nothing to do with external actors and everything to do with growing confidence in Indonesia’s democracy to effectively address its historically troubled internal security.

Understanding this requires a look at the history and culture of Indonesia’s security services. Like many of its counterparts in neighboring states, the Indonesian security apparatus was formed, tested, blooded, and solidified in an environment of internal insurgency. For hundreds of years, Southeast Asian nations (with the exception of Thailand) were caught up in the ebb and flow of colonial domination. In a very short time following the Japanese invasion of the region in December 1941, these nations underwent a rapid decoupling from the colonial system. By 1959 all were newly independent and all except Thailand were on a fairly shaky basis due to the newness of their institutions. Worse, they all suffered from vicious Communist insurgencies formed, trained, and supported by the Allies to counter the Japanese. In some cases, returning colonial powers (French, Dutch, and British) found themselves fighting the very the agents they had trained just a few years earlier. The chickens had come home to roost in a very real and violent way.

The Communists had two weakness: they were not a single, monolithic insurgency but a collection of disconnected national movements (Malayan, Thai, Indonesian, Filipino) vulnerable to defeat in detail, and their core membership was composed primarily of culturally distinct ethnic Chinese minorities. Their ability to blend into the local populations was limited, forcing the Communists to operate in remote, politically marginal areas. Despite this, they posed a very real threat to the stability of the young governments in the five nations that would eventually form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). By 1967, these nations had had enough and decided they needed a political construct that would enable them to address the problem. The solution was the principle of non-interference enshrined in the founding declaration of ASEAN. This principle allowed member states to define their insurgencies as purely internal problems and to deal with them without fear of interference by other ASEAN member states. In its implementation over the last forty-seven years, the principle of non-interference has been used at times as a cover for the suppression of internal populations through imposition of emergency security measures such as restrictions on freedoms of the press and assembly; common factors in many ASEAN countries. Of course, the best tool for implementing these restrictions is the police. As a result, in many ASEAN countries the police, not the Army, have primacy for both internal and external security. But Indonesia went a different direction, relying more on its military special operations forces (Kopassus and others) than on its police.

Created by the Japanese to fight Dutch-trained Indonesian paramilitary formations (and ultimately the Dutch themselves), the predecessors of the Indonesian Army (TNI) and national intelligence service (BIN) adopted a heavy counter-insurgency focus during their early operations in the Second World War. With the accession of their leaders, Sukarno and Zulkifli Lubis, to political and bureaucratic power, TNI and BIN’s perception of threat from within dominated Indonesia’s strategic landscape until the end of the 20th Century. As TNI’s monopoly on political power quickly eroded after the fall of Suharto in 1998, the emphasis began to shift toward the police. A U.S. legislative prohibition on direct military engagement with individuals accused of human rights violations accelerated the situation. The prohibition disproportionately affected Kopassus after accusations that many of its leaders committed war crimes during the invasion of East Timor in 1975. Decades later, the U.S. failure to engage Kopassus remained problematic for the United States because TNI continued to block access to other Indonesian units, insisting that Jakarta, not the U.S. Congress, would decide which Indonesian formations received priority for mil-mil cooperation. The impasse left the door open for the U.S. State Department to become the lead U.S. agency for security assistance to Indonesia. Through its Anti-Terrorism Agency (ATA), the State Department drove the formation and training of the now famous police counterterrorism unit, Densus 88,[1] known for its spectacular successes against a number of the country’s most wanted international terrorists. By 2007, with hotspots in Timor and Irian Jaya temporarily quiet, Indonesia’s police seemed to be firmly in control of internal security, allowing the country’s military and political leadership to begin thinking outwardly.

It is in this context that Jokowi’s pronouncement makes sense. Navies do not have great utility against insurgencies and it would not be feasible or advisable to emphasize naval power while under threat from within. While some happily interpret this shift to be aimed squarely at China, whose territorial claims in the South China Sea affect Indonesia’s energy rich Natuna Island, this is probably wishful thinking. China’s brushes with Natuna are a very recent development in what is a much older strategic context. Therefore we should not view such a shift as a bold break from strategic concepts of the past, rather we should take it as a reflection of Indonesia’s changing security situation going all the way back to the Japanese invasion in 1941. While it’s probably inaccurate to portray this as evidence of Jokowi’s greatness and vision, we can take heart that a shift to the sea is evidence that a mature, stable Indonesia has indeed arrived and is here to stay.

Lino Miani is a US Army Special Forces officer, author of The Sulu Arms Market, and CEO of Navisio Global LLC.  Views expressed in this article are definitely not the views of the US Government, the U.S. Army, or the Special Forces Regiment.

[1] The name Detacmen Khusus 88, or Densus 88 for short, is reportedly the result of a misinterpretation of the English acronym for Antiterrorism Agency (ATA) by a senior Indonesian police official.

Sea Control 53 – Indonesian Security Policy

seacontrol-birthday

Happy Birthday CIMSEC! In celebration of CIMSEC’s first birthday, Sea Control Asia Pacific is bringing you a special podcast with an all-star cast. On the sidelines of the Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth, Natalie Sambhi, of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, hosts an in-depth discussion with Lieutenant General (rtd) Agus Widjojo (Indonesian Army), Brigadier General (rtd) Gary Hogan (Australian Army) and Jim Della-Giacoma (former head of International Crisis Group operations in Southeast Asia) on Indonesia’s defence and security, and maritime security in the region.

DOWNLOAD: Indonesian Security Policy

The podcast covers Indonesia’s security priorities, strategic communications and defence diplomacy, Asia Pacific cooperation on the South China Sea, naval modernisation, and US–Indonesia relations.

For some background of the events of 1965 mentioned by the guests, see here.

 

Piracy in the South China Sea: Petty Theft in Indonesia, Kidnapped Ships in Malaysia

By Sarah Schoenberger

Armed with AK47s and equipped with GPS devices, modern pirates pose a serious non-traditional security threat to all seafaring nations, their people, and economies. In 2012, five crew members were killed in pirate attacks, 14 wounded, and 313 kidnapped; and the world economy lost about US$6 billion through disrupted maritime logistic chains, higher insurance premiums, and longer shipping times. While most associate piracy with hijacked ships and abandoned crews around Somalia, the area with the most pirate attacks in recent years has been the South China Sea. While the most severe attacks here occur primarily in Malaysia, 78 percent of the incidents in 2012 took place at Indonesian ports and concerned small cases of petty theft.

This analysis is based on data by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN specialized agency for maritime security. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines piracy as an illegal act of violence committed for private ends by the crew or passengers of a ship or aircraft against another ship or aircraft on the high seas; the IMO extends this definition to include “armed robbery against ships”—pirate attacks within a state’s territorial sea.

According to the IMO, piracy worldwide has risen substantially since 1994 with incident peaks of about 470 and 550 in 2000 and 2011, respectively (see Figure 1). This is primarily due to the exponential increase of global shipping in the course of globalization—leading to 80 percent of world trade being shipped across oceans today—with which opportunities for piracy increased likewise. The real number of pirate attacks are thereby even higher: An estimated two-thirds of all pirate attacks remain unreported, as shipping companies skirt the bad publicity, higher insurance premiums, and investigation delays that come with reporting incidents.

With the exception of 2007 to 2012, when piracy in East Africa experienced a sharp increase, the South China Sea has been the most piracy-prone region in the world, with up to 150 attacks per year. Why? First, about 30 percent of global maritime trade passes through the region, so opportunities for attacks are plenty. Second, the area’s geographical features foster piracy, as the island chains and small rocks constitute ideal hiding places, while the narrow passages facilitate attacks. Third, unresolved territorial issues and lack of agreed jurisdiction, particularly around the Spratley and Paracel Islands, complicate maritime enforcement and patrols and thus facilitate illegal activities at sea.

While pirate attacks in the South China Sea are spread across the entire area, the majority happen around Indonesia: Of 85 incidents with a known location in 2012, 66 occurred in Indonesia, 10 in Malaysia, 3 in the Philippines, 2 in Singapore and 4 in Vietnam. Indonesia’s geographical features and the increased efforts of Malaysia and Singapore to combat piracy in the Strait of Malacca explain the predominance in Indonesia. Here, efforts to fight piracy are weak, cooperation of corrupt port officials is high, and punishment for piracy rather light.

In Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, most attacks occur at ports, whereas none happened in the Singaporean port. In Malaysia, the majority of incidents occurred on the high seas (see Figure 2). Taken together, this leads to a regional average of 67 percent ‘port-attacks’ in 2012, while only 13 percent happened on the high seas. In this regard, the South China Sea is distinct compared to the rest of the world, where more than a third of all pirate attacks are committed on the high seas.

To know more about the nature of the incidents in the different countries, the severity of the attacks can be calculated. Taking the four variables, (A) number of pirates taking part in an attack, (B) weapons used, (C) content stolen, and (D) amount of violence employed, the grade of severity is established by scaling the four variables appropriately (0.5A-2B-2C-3D), using them as axes in a four-dimensional coordinate plane and employing a point-distance formula of the point A/B/C/D to the origin.

Figure 1: Yearly statistics of piracy incidents worldwide since 1948. Source: IMO, 2012.
Figure 1: Yearly statistics of piracy incidents worldwide since 1948. Source: IMO, 2012.

Linking the severity with the location of attacks yields the map in Figure 3 (the larger the bubble, the more severe the attack; when several attacks of different severity took place in the same location, they are marked by black lines). While no hot spot is obvious, it is apparent that attacks in vicinity of Malaysia and Singapore were more severe (at an average severity of 37.5 and 34, respectively, on a scale from 8.5 to 59.5), while the mildest ones occurred in Indonesia at 24. The Philippines and Vietnam range in the middle at 29.5 and 26.7.

Comparing the severity with the area of attack in the different countries, two types of piracy become apparent. The first one is exemplified by attacks in Indonesia, which occur at ports and are not that severe. These are usually carried out by four pirates armed with knives, guns, or machetes; they target the crew’s personal belongings and the ship’s stores without employing much violence. These attacks can be characterized as low-profile piracy, which is generally conducted by un(der)employed fishermen or idle dock workers. As they lack resources, the attacks are ill-organized and opportunistic and exercised where security measures are low, law enforcement weak, and the concentration of shipping high.

Figure 2: Occurrences in the South China Sea according to country and area.
Figure 2: Occurrences in the South China Sea according to country and area.

In contrast, severe high-profile piracy occurs primarily on the high seas. It is carried out by well-organized international piracy syndicates, which have substantial means at their disposal and use modern techniques and equipment. In the South China Sea, this type of high-profile piracy is most evident in Malaysia. On average, these are carried out by 11 pirates armed with knives and guns; they hijack the ship and take the crew hostage or abandon it in life rafts.

The most self-evident explanation for the difference of low- and high-profile piracy in Indonesia and Malaysia is the disparity in living standards and wealth. In Indonesia, where the GDP per capita was US$5,100 in 2012, piracy attacks are much more likely to be motivated by poverty. Local fishermen do not have the means, or the motivation, to conduct high-profile attacks, but simply seek money and food—making Indonesian piracy less severe. In Malaysia, with a GDP per capita of US$17,200 in 2012, poverty is not as high and there is less necessity for fishers to conduct low-scale piracy attacks in order to survive. Instead, piracy attacks here are conducted by organized crime syndicates, entail much more criminal energy, and are more severe. Other factors that have an impact on the prevalent type of piracy include the amount of port security measures, the degree of law enforcement, and the strength of penalties.

Figure 3: The location and severity of piracy incidents in the South China Sea.
Figure 3: The location and severity of piracy incidents in the South China Sea.

Understanding the nature of piracy in the South China Sea leads to several implications for its combat. As most attacks happen in harbors, increased port and ship security measures would be highly effective in reducing the number of these incidents. In addition, stricter law regulation and enforcement mechanisms, as well as training for local port officials would be useful. Both these measures should be conducted in multilateral settings, like regional Piracy Law Dialogues or Conferences. They should include regional government officials, legal experts, representatives from the IMO and IMB, the shipping community, and other non-regional states with an interest in combating piracy in the South China Sea.

To address the cases on the high seas, any military mission patrolling the waters and accompanying ships (such as the successful NATO Operation Ocean Shield in the Gulf of Aden) would be highly controversial and inadvisable due to the possible escalation of territorial tensions. Instead, a joint coast guard system with common patrols could be much more effective.

For a country-specific course of action, the incidents in the respective country should be analyzed more closely, looking inter alia at the specific locations of the attacks with their surrounding circumstances and the general structure of criminality in the country. Nevertheless, based on the results of this analysis, piracy in the South China Sea in general can be much reduced if the root causes of unemployment and poverty in Indonesia are addressed. Through the depletion of resources, limitation of fishing grounds due to territorial tensions, and competition from large international fisheries that outclass them in the open sea, local fishermen can no longer sustain themselves by their livelihood. Facing a dearth of other employment opportunities, there is often little choice but to commit low-scale opportunistic crimes around harbors—and thereby become pirates.

Sarah Schoenberger is a postgraduate student of International Affairs at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Peking University in Beijing. Her focus is on security studies and East Asia. This article appeared in its original form at the Indo-Pacific Review and was republished by permission.