Indonesia demanded an international tribunal Wednesday over China's expansionism in the South China Sea if the countries involved could not come to a diplomatic solution on their own. Several nations in the region, including Indonesia and China, as well as the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, have made land claims of sovereignty over an area of the South China Sea that includes the Spratly Islands.
The 750 spits of lands that make up the Spratly Islands are small and relatively uninhabited. But their strategic location in the middle of several major trade routes, as well as the possibility of their containing oil or other minerals, have made the islands an extremely valuable commodity.
Indonesia's primary dispute with China in the South China Sea is over the so-called nine-dash line, a boundary that China has used to demarcate its territory in the region. Part of the Indonesian-ruled Natuna islands may be within the territory China has designated as its own, and Indonesian authorities asked for clarification.
"The position of Indonesia is clear at this stage that we do not recognize the nine-dash line because it is not in line with ... international law," one Indonesian foreign ministry spokesperson, as reported by Reuters.
Indonesia asks China to clarify South China Sea claims https://t.co/YBheDvfyLk
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) November 12, 2015
China has made the largest claim over sovereignty, even building artificial islands to beef up the case for Chinese ownership. China treats the islands as its own sovereign territory even though the claim hasn't been verified.
Relations between countries in the region have grown more strained throughout the past several weeks after the United States performed a sail-by of one of the islands to reinforce its stance that the disputed area of the South China Sea still remains international waters.
“We would like to see a solution on this in the near future [through] dialogue," said Luhut Pandjaitan, a top official in Indonesian President Joko Widodo's cabinet, the Wall Street Journal reported.