Indonesian officials say the country is holding its largest military exercise near some of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
“We want to show our existence in the area. We have a good enough air force to act as a deterrent,” spokesman for Indonesian air force, Jemi Trisonjaya, said on Tuesday.
China and Indonesia have “over-lapping claims” to waters near the Natuna island chain and the two countries’ fishing boats have been involved in a series of face-offs.
In June, Indonesian President Joko Widodo launched an unprecedented campaign to bolster fishing, oil exploration and defense facilities around the gas-rich area.
More than 2,000 air force personnel are taking part in the two-week long exercise, which ends on Thursday. Trisonjaya said the drill includes the deployment of Indonesia’s fleet of Russian Sukhoi and F-16 fighter jets.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by several Southeast Asian countries, including Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The earth beneath the contested waters is believed to be rich in oil and gas.
Indonesia is not part of the disputes in the South China Sea, but has objected to Beijing’s inclusion of waters around Indonesia’s Natuna islands within a “nine-dash line” China marks on maps to show its claim on the water.
In June, President Widodo held a cabinet meeting with the Indonesian foreign minister and the chief of the armed forces on board a warship off the Natuna islands to assert the Southeast Asian country’s sovereignty over the maritime area.