BEIJING (AFP): China denied yesterday that any dispute existed between itself and Indonesia over the South China Sea’s Natuna Island, but said it was willing to hold talks with Jakarta to settle demarcation.
There is no dispute between China and Indonesia on possession of the Natuna Islands,’ said foreign ministry spokesman Chen Jian when asked about reports of growing concerns in Jakarta over Chinese interest in a gas-rich zone near the archipelago.
“We’re willing to hold talks with the Indonesian side to settle demarcation of this area.” Chen added, without elaborating. China is one of the six nations which claims all or part of the Spratly Island in the South China Sea and its interpretation of that claim includes part of the large Indonesian maritime zone of Natuna, between Borneo and the Malaysian Peninsula. United States oil giant Exxon signed a contract in November with the Indonesia state owned firm Pertamina to exploit a natural gas field, 250 kilometres northeast of Natuna, in a zone apparently claimed by China.
China has lodged no official protest over the deal. Indonesia has sent a diplomatic note to Beijing expressing its condemn the moment it found out that the latest Chinese official map showed Natuna as within dotted line of its boundary.