Even though Indonesia has long stated that it has no maritime disputes in the South China Sea, the Indonesian government on Friday has made its final decision to renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea.

The Philippines renamed its EEZ as the West Philippine Sea, next is Vietnam called its EEZ as East Vietnam Sea and now Indonesia also followed calling it as the North Natuna Sea.

The move was seen as the most recent demonstration of resistance by Southeast Asian countries. A clear message to China’s territorial desire in the maritime region.

The map with a new name unveiled on Friday by the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs.

Indonesia Natuna Island map

A deputy for the ministry of maritime sovereignty at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Arif Havas Oesgroseno, told reporters, “We want to update the naming of the sea we gave a new name in line with the usual practice: the North Natuna Sea.” as he noted that the northern side of its exclusive economic zone was the site of oil and gas activity.

According to the deputy, China’s contentious maritime boundary – known as the ‘nine-dash-line’ – overlaps its exclusive economic zone around the Natuna islands.

Indonesia insists it’s a non-claimant state in the South China Sea dispute but has clashed with China over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands, detaining Chinese fishermen and expanding its military presence in the area over the past 18 months.

Meanwhile, I Made Andi Arsana, an expert on the Law of the Sea from Indonesia’s Universitas Gadjah Mada, said the renaming carried no legal force but was a political and diplomatic statement.

“It will be seen as a big step by Indonesia to state its sovereignty,” he told Reuters. “It will send a clear message, both to the Indonesian people and diplomatically speak.”

Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, said Indonesia’s action followed renewed resistance to Chinese territorial claims by other Southeast Asian states.

He said, “this will be noticed in Beijing.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he was unaware of the details of the issue, but stressed that the name the South China Sea has international recognition and clear geographic boundaries.

“Certain countries’ so-called renaming is totally meaningless,” he told a daily news briefing on Friday. “We hope the relevant country can meet China halfway and properly maintain the present good situation in the South China Sea region, which has not come easily.”

But for Beijing, the renamed sea belongs to China under its maritime boundary, known as the ‘nine-dash line, they don’t care, even though it encompasses most of the resource-rich sea to other South East Asian nation. -JCE.