Malaysian warships have reportedly been spotted illegally entering Indonesian waters off Ambalat in Nunukan regency nine times during this year.
The ships had to be warned before they turned back, Jakarta Post reported.
“[The Indonesian government] will later definitely remind it [Malaysia],” Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Moeldoko said on Monday on the sidelines of an event at the Presidential Palace.
Moeldoko, however, declined to reveal what further steps Indonesia might consider in handling the issue.
“In diplomacy, the soft approach is used in the beginning of a certain issue,” he said, recalling that the two countries had actually agreed not to escalate the situation in Ambalat, one of five areas in the regency over which the two neighbours claim sovereignty.
Antara News Agency reported on Monday that Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs, Security and Law Tedjo Edhy Purdjianto had recently said Indonesia would protest and confirmed that Malaysian warships and unmanned aircraft had often crossed the border into Indonesian territorial waters and air space in the regency.
“[The Indonesian government] will draft a diplomatic note to the Malaysian government over the border violations by entering Indonesian territory in Nunukan,” Tedjo said on Sunday while visiting the regency.
Tedjo said he will discuss the matter with Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi to help settle the issue with Malaysia through diplomacy.
The minister added that Indonesia wanted to discuss the as-yet-unresolved border disputes with Malaysia and was awaiting a response from the neighboring country.
“The Indonesian government has made maximum efforts to settle the border disputes with Malaysia,” Tedjo said.
The first step, however, was to intensify monitoring and tighten the border protection on the sea, land and air borders by deploying aircraft from the Tarakan military airbase, in North Kalimantan, he added.
Vice-President Jusuf Kalla also shared a similar view with Moeldoko, saying that Indonesia would ask Malaysia for an explanation about the matter, but at the same time, pushing for a friendly diplomatic approach.
“Of course we’ll ask [for Malaysia’s explanation], if necessary, a protest [will be sent to Malaysia],” Kalla said on Monday.
Ambalat is a 15,235 square kilometer maritime area located off the coast of east Kalimantan, which both Indonesia and Malaysia claim to be theirs.
Geologist Andang Bachtiar estimates that just one of the Ambalat blocks could hold as much as 764 million barrels of oil and 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas.
In 2009, both countries became embroiled in a row over Ambalat, with the Indonesian government accusing its counterpart of breaching the borders on frequent occasions.
Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to reopen diplomatic discussions to settle the dispute a year later. - The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network