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Indonesia Furious Over Australia's New Maritime Surveillance Zone

  • Tim Johnston

Australia's plan to establish a maritime surveillance zone that would cover much of Indonesia has provoked a furious response from Jakarta, which says the policy contravenes both national sovereignty and international law. The move is just the latest in what Indonesia sees as a series of aggressive policies from Canberra.

Even at their lowest ebb, diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Australia have always remained calm. But on Friday, Jakarta's anger boiled over at Australia's announcement of a maritime surveillance zone that would extend 1,000 nautical miles beyond Australia's coasts.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta said that if the Australians asked for Jakarta's blessing, the answer would be what he described as "an unequivocal 'no'", and Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda explained why.

He says the proposed zone would contravene Indonesia's jurisdiction because it would encompass two-thirds of Indonesia's waters.

Indonesia was already upset by an earlier Australian declaration, that it had the right to make pre-emptive military strikes into any country if it thought they were necessary to halt terrorist attacks against Australia.

Australia's defense minister, Robert Hill, was in Jakarta Friday, where he met Mr. Wirajuda and was scheduled to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Friday evening.

Mr. Hill defended the Australian plan, saying it had been misunderstood.

"There's no intent to claim an extended jurisdiction," he said. "What we are seeking to do is to be able to identify ships that are going to visit Australian ports earlier and also identify ships that intend to transit through Australian waters earlier."

Despite its anger, Indonesia received a reminder Friday of the threat that terrorism still poses, when police discovered nine small bombs that were being transported on a bus in Western Java.

The passengers are still being interviewed, but security analysts say they believe Islamic militants may be planning a move away from their past modus operandi of large bombs packed into vehicles, and towards smaller bombs that could be hand-carried into crowded public areas.

Australia, Britain and New Zealand have already warned their nationals of an increased security risk in Indonesia over the Christmas period.

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