A Malaysian military transport aircraft flying over Indonesia’s Natuna Islands was intercepted by two Indonesian fighter jets, the Malaysian Defense Ministry confirmed Sunday.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) C-130 aircraft was flying from west Malaysia toward Sabah in Eastern Malaysia on it regular route over the Natuna Islands, Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein reportedly said.
“Yes, we have received information that the flight was intercepted by two Indonesian jets. However, we do not have full details of the incident,” he told Malaysian newspaper the Star, “We are in the process of getting the full report.”
Singapore news agency Channel News Asia reported that the Malaysian plane went on its way despite the interception.
“I'm not worried as this is normal and it happens everywhere in the world. If there were any incidents between us, we can deal with each other diplomatically. We will not let any incident ruin our ties,” Hussein said, assuring that Malaysia and Indonesia had very close relations, “Plus, I am very close to the Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu. If I need to contact him, it wouldn't be a problem.”
“No untoward incident occurred,” a source told The Star. The Indonesian jets were simply notifying the RMAF flight that it had entered the Indonesian air space, the source said.
Indonesia's Ranai Air Base commander Colonel Nurtantio Affan told the Jakarta Post Sunday that he received an order from Jakarta to immediately expel the foreign plane that had entered the Indonesian territory illegally.
“We did not manage to detect what country the plane came from, but we have sent it away to the north of Natuna Island,” Affan said. He added that the Indonesian plane had tried to communicate with the foreign plane but there was no response. In January, the Indonesian Air Force had upgraded the status of the island's Ranai Air Base from Type C to B. The base’s commander was also upgraded from a lieutenant colonel to colonel, Affan said.
This incident comes two days after Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the islands on a warship in what is likely a show of force after clashes with Chinese fishing vessels in the area. According to reports, Indonesia has no maritime disputes with China over reefs or islets in the South China Sea. Beijing’s claims, however, overlap Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone around the Natuna Islands.