Indonesia’s Navy Fired Warning Shot at Vietnamese Vessels

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, third right, accompanied by, from left to right, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, Navy Chief of Staff, Adm. Ade Supandi, top Security Minister Luhut Panjaitan, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo and Riau Islands Gov. Nurdin Basirun stands on the deck of navy warship KRI Imam Bonjol in 2016 on the waters of Natuna Islands, Indonesia. Photo: Agus Suparto / Associated Press

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s navy said it fired a warning shot at two Vietnamese fishing vessels that were discovered in Indonesian waters over the weekend in the second clash between the two countries in the South China Sea in two months.

Navy spokesman Gig Jonias Mozes Sipasulta said the Vietnamese boats were four nautical miles inside Indonesian territory when intercepted by an Indonesian warship on Sunday. He denied media reports that four Vietnamese fishermen were injured.

In a statement released Monday evening, Sipasulta said the two vessels sailed toward the bow of the KRI Wiranto-379, which fired a warning shot, causing the Vietnamese to immediately head for international waters.

Several Vietnamese fishing vessels escaped Indonesian interception in May following a show of force by Vietnam’s coast guard in the South China Sea, where China’s expansive territorial claims overlap with the waters of several Southeast Asian nations.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with more than 13,000 islands, has become increasingly assertive in defending its maritime territory and exclusive economic zone.

It has destroyed hundreds of foreign fishing vessels caught in its territory and earlier this month said it had renamed the southernmost reaches of the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea.

Experts said that move was aimed at protecting its exclusive economic zone north of the Natuna island chain, which overlaps with China’s nine-dash line that roughly demarcates its claim to the South China Sea.