Speaking in Washington, D.C., Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for "restraint" in the South China Sea hours after a U.S. warship sailed close to an island claimed by China despite Chinese warnings not to do so.
Widodo didn't refer directly to the USS Lassen's journey in his prepared speech at the Brookings Institution, but he said Indonesia is neutral and supports freedom of navigation, the Associated Press reported.
"Indonesia is not a party to the dispute, but we have a legitimate interest in peace and stability there," AP reported Widodo as saying. "We call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from taking actions that could undermine trust and confidence, and put at risk the peace and stability of the region."
China in the past year has made concrete its claim to most of the South China Sea, including parts claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, by using reclamation to build and expand islands on which it has built airstrips and other facilities.
Widodo also reiterated his statement that Indonesia will play an active role in the situation, declining to say how.
According to the Diplomat, Widodo's defense minister, Ryamizard Ryacudu, this month said if the countries with claims in the South China Sea can calm tensions on their own, “there’s no need to involve other parties in resolving the dispute.”