Indonesian air force to hold military drill near South China Sea

Indonesia's air force will hold a military exercise near the South China Sea on Thursday amid tensions with China over fishing rights in the area, its commander said. 

The drill on the Natuna islands was expected to involve more than 2,000 air force personnel and dozens of aircraft, Air Force chief Air Marshall Agus Supriyatna told dpa on Tuesday. 

"It's a routine, annual war exercise," Tatang said, adding that President Joko Widodo is expected to watch the event. 

The drills had been scheduled to be held on the island of Belitung at the end of September but was moved to the Natunas for undisclosed reasons. 

Indonesia has accused Chinese fishing vessels of stealing fish off the Natunas, in what Jakarta says is part of its exclusive economic zone.

China lodged a strong protest with Indonesia in June after Indonesian warships fired shots at Chinese fishing boats that Beijing said were operating on their "traditional fishing grounds."

The Natuna Islands and surrounding waters are the closest to the Nine-Dash Line, a demarcation used by China as the basis of its unilateral claim to a majority of the resource-rich South China Sea.

Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the sea, but Indonesia has denied an overlapping claim with China.

Last update: Tue, 04/10/2016 - 14:19

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