Indonesia says Taiwanese vessels ignored repeated warnings

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia says one of its patrol ships fired shots at two Taiwanese vessels suspected of illegal fishing only after they ignored repeated warnings to leave Indonesian waters in the Strait of Malacca.

Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said Thursday that the fisheries patrol ship involved in the incident followed all standard procedures for dealing with foreign vessels.

He vowed that Indonesia will stick to its policy of taking firm action against illegal fishing. Yunus Husein of the Illegal Fishing Task Force said the Taiwanese vessels were sailing without flags off Lhoksemawe in Sumatra’s Aceh province. He said no one was injured.

Taiwan has demanded an explanation from Indonesia. A statement by its Foreign Ministry condemned the use of force and asked for evidence of any wrongdoing by the Taiwanese boats that could justify the shooting.

Pandjaitan said Indonesia abided by “international standard procedures in dealing with foreign ships entering our territory, including by providing warnings through raising flags, voices and warning shots in the stern of the ship.”

Indonesia has taken strong action in the past year against illegal fishing, destroying dozens of captured vessels.

In the past week, the Indonesian government has also butted heads with Beijing after the Chinese coast guard helped a Chinese fishing vessel escape from Indonesian control. The ship was caught fishing illegally off Indonesia’s Natuna islands, which overlap the southernmost reaches of the South China Sea.

Indonesia’s assertive response in that case has suggested it is adjusting its stance of always staying at arms-length from the territorial disputes other Southeast Asian nations have with China over its expansive claims to the South China Sea.

The Taiwanese tuna long-liners were docked at Singapore’s Jurong Fishery Port on Thursday. Associated Press reporters saw crew members on deck but were not allowed to approach.

The Singapore newspaper Straits Times said the two captains and their 25 crewmembers were tired but in good condition.

Lin Nan-yang, the captain of the Sheng Te Tsai, told the newspaper that the early Monday morning shooting occurred without warning and he was unable to understand what the Indonesian crew was saying over the radio.

Taiwanese media reported the crews of the ships were unharmed.