The Indonesian air force will conduct its largest military exercise close to islands in the disputed South China Sea region this week as tensions continue in the area, officials said Tuesday. Over 2,000 air force personnel are expected to participate in the drills that will continue for two weeks.
“We want to show our existence in the area. We have a good enough air force to act as a deterrent,” Jemi Trisonjaya, spokesman for Indonesia’s air force, said, according to Reuters.
The exercise, in which only the air force will take part, will have the country’s fleet of Russian Sukhoi and F-16 fighter jets, the spokesman added.
China has laid claims to almost all of South China Sea and Indonesia does not have conflicting claims over the area. However, Jakarta opposes Bejing laying claims to waters around the Natuna Islands within its “nine-dash line” — a demarcation line that China uses to show its claims in the region. Furthermore, Bejing has not disputed Indonesia’s claims over the Natuna islands, but has instead upset Jakarta saying both the states have “over-lapping claims” to waters near the islands.
Reports on Monday said that militaries from New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Britain will be holding drills in the South China Sea this month to warn China over its increasing claims to the region. The “Exercise Bersama Lima” will be held for three weeks and it will include navy, army and air force personnel from the participating countries. The drills are reportedly organized by Singapore in a bid to bolster regional security and disaster relief support.
About $5 trillion worth of maritime trade sails through South China Sea every year. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have laid claims over territory in the region.