JAKARTA, INDONESIA — China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Indonesia on 12 January, just a day before Indonesia started its COVID-19 vaccination program using the China-made Sinovac.
Wang Yi met with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi and Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Luhut Binsar Panjaitan.
A day later, Wang Yi met with President Joko Widodo.
Wang’s visit is part of his Southeast Asia tour, starting from Myanmar. After visiting Indonesia, he continued his trip to Brunei and the Philippines, at the foreign ministers’ invitation.
Here are three key points from the visit.
Indonesia demands serious commitment from China to protecting the fishing vessel’s crew members
The exploitation of Indonesian fishermen at China-owned fishing vessels has been Indonesia’s main focus for the past six months.
Throughout December last year, the SAFESeas Fishers’ Center received a report regarding 51 Indonesian vessel crew members trapped in China’s water and they wanted to return home.
According to Abdi Suhfan from the Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW), five fishers were victims of forced labour and human trafficking.
“They were supposed to return to Indonesia as the contract has expired. But they got stuck in the waters due to the pandemic. They had yet to receive their salaries from the company and the agency,” Abdi said in a statement received on 6 January.
During Wang’s visit, Retno pushed Beijing to pay attention to Indonesian fishing vessels’ workers’ rights protection through mutual legal assistance.
Director-General of Protocol and Consular at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry Andy Rachmianto told reporters cited in Antara that Indonesian fishers’ protection is one of the country’s foreign policy priorities.
South China Sea stability is mandatory
Retno also stressed the importance of maintaining stability in the disputed South China Sea. Wang also expressed his readiness to negotiate the Code of Conduct (CoC) with ASEAN member countries.
CoC is a non-binding guideline regulating how to prevent a confrontation in the waters. Retno also called for all nations, including China to respect the UNCLOS (United Nations Conventions on the Law of The Sea) 1982.
In 2019, tensions between Indonesia and China intensified following the latter’s claim over the oil-rich Natuna Waters, arguing that the region is China’s territory based on its unilaterally-claimed Nine-Dash Line.
The Natuna Waters is included in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEEI) based on the UNCLOS 1982. At that time, Beijing stated it has sovereignty over the Nansha Islands with ZEEI waters.
Investment in the Toba Lake
Luhut offered China to invest in Toba Lake in North Sumatera — one of the popular destinations Indonesia for travellers. Besides tourism, the minister also offered several projects for national economic recovery.
Luhut has invited Wang several times to visit the lake. The Chinese diplomat planned to visit last February, but the pandemic put a halt to his plans.