In 2016, Indonesian military will have more money. Yesterday Indonesia’s parliament agreed to increase the country’s defense budget to 108.7 trillion-rupiah ($8.25 billion). This is about 10% more than the original annual budget.
Some part of the funds will be used for building a port and upgrading the air base on the Natuna Islands. According to Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, such upgrades will let Jakarta to have more aircrafts and warships on the remote islands, whose nearby waters are claimed by China.
Last Thursday Indonesian Prime Minister Joko “Jokowi” Widodo visited the Natuna Islands. During a Cabinet meeting on the board of a warship, he ordered to strengthen patrols in the area.
“I want the military and our coast guard to have improved radar technology, as well as better patrol capability”, he said.
It was a strong signal that Jakarta is serious about protection of its sovereignty over the maritime territories in the southern part of the South China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, while other countries in the region have overlapping claims. Last year the tensions in the region were raised by activities by Chinese fishermen in disputed waters and reclamation works started by Beijing on the disputed islands and reefs.
Indonesia and China do not have any competing territorial claims in the South China Sea. But Jakarta started to worry, after in March Beijing said that the waters around the Natuna Islands, which are a part of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, are a part of its “traditional fishing grounds”.