Surabaya. The Indonesian Navy has revealed that it was moments away from firing on a Malaysian warship that encroached deep into Indonesian territorial waters earlier this week, but called off the attack when the intruder retreated.
The latest incident highlights growing tensions in the disputed oil-rich waters of Ambalat in the border region between Malaysia and Indonesia in the Sulawesi Sea, with the Navy stating on Thursday that the Malaysian Navy and Marine Police had intruded into Indonesian waters at least nine times since the beginning of the year.
Lt. Col. Toni Syaiful, spokesman for the Navy’s Surabaya-based Eastern Fleet Command, said the Malaysian Fast Attack Craft Gun KD Yu-3508 vessel penetrated 12 nautical miles into Indonesian maritime territory at dawn on Monday, and called it the “worst incident” of its kind because Malaysian naval vessels previously only dared to intrude “several miles.”
Not only did the Malaysian warship penetrate far into Indonesian waters, but it had also ignored demands from the captain of the Indonesian KRI Untung Suropati-872 Parchim-class corvette to retreat, Toni said.
“[Despite] being warned twice, they just moved away several meters,” he said. “Eventually, the commander of KRI Untung Suropati, Capt. Salim, made the decision to assume combat readiness. Only then did the Malaysians decide to flee.”
Indonesian Navy Chief Adm. Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said earlier this week that he did not intend to bolster forces in the region by adding to the six warships it already had patrolling the area.
However, Toni said on Thursday that seven of the fleet’s 30 warships were on alert. “The placement of seven battleships has been thought out carefully and it conforms with the Navy’s preemptive measures to secure the Ambalat territory.”
The Eastern Fleet Command estimated that the Malaysian Navy had as many as four warships in the area.
“The Malaysian Navy should inform their personnel that the Ambalat area is still in dispute. Thus, they should not provoke our sailors anymore,” Toni warned, adding that the patience of sailors in the area was wearing thin because of the incursions.
Indonesian Army Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said Malaysian warships had often violated Indonesian territory in the disputed waters because both sides had solid legal ground for their claims over the Ambalat area.
“So the disputed borders between the two countries in Ambalat should be resolved immediately,” Djoko said, adding that he hoped border negotiations could be settled soon so that the Indonesian military did not have to build up its forces in the area.