By Erric Permana
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AA) – The Indonesian Navy will move the headquarters of its combat squad to Natuna islands bordering the South China Sea, said an official on Monday.
Speaking at a news conference, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Yudo Margono said the naval combat force (Guspurla) Command Fleet I, which is currently deployed in the capital Jakarta, will be permanently transferred to Natuna.
The force is in charge of conducting marine combat and amphibious operations to support sea control and achieve strategic objectives in order to enforce law and uphold sovereignty in territorial sea.
The deployment came following escalating tension in the South China Sea and the region.
"In anticipation of something that can happen any time, the Commander of the combat force can directly lead a warship with the deployed task force," Margono told reporters.
Apart from the Natuna region, he said, Indonesian Navy is also anticipating vulnerabilities at the sea borders, including Malacca Strait, Ambalat Block and Pacific Ocean.
Natuna islands border the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China despite competing claims from other Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
The waters around the islands are believed to have rich reserves of undiscovered oil and gas. The islands are located on a crucial passage for commercial shipping.
In 2019-2020, there have been several escalations between Indonesia and China over violations of territory by a Chinese coastguard in disputed waters around the island claimed by Jakarta.
* Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo from Anadolu Agency's Indonesian language services in Jakarta.