Indonesian president Joko Widodo visits island in waters disputed by China

President Joko Widodo, left visited Natuna islands in waters disputed by China and also met with fishermen living there. (Presidential Palace/AFP)
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Updated 08 January 2020

Indonesian president Joko Widodo visits island in waters disputed by China

  • Joko Widodo: disputed waters off Natuna Besar island belong solely to Indonesia
  • China has not claimed the Natuna islands themselves, but says it has nearby fishing rights

JAKARTA: President Joko Widodo visited an island in waters disputed by China on Wednesday to assert Indonesia’s sovereignty amid a standoff between Indonesian and Chinese vessels.
The confrontation began in mid-December when a Chinese coast guard vessel, accompanying Chinese fishing boats, entered waters off the coast of Indonesia’s northern Natuna islands, prompting Jakarta to summon Beijing’s ambassador.
Widodo told reporters on Natuna Besar island that the disputed waters belong solely to Indonesia.
“We have a district here, a regent, and a governor here,” he said. “There are no more debates. De facto, de jure, Natuna is Indonesia.”


Widodo also met with fishermen on the island. Earlier this week, Indonesia deployed more ships and fighter jets to patrol the surrounding waters. Nursyawal Embun, the director of sea operations at the Maritime Security Agency, said as of Wednesday morning that there were two Chinese coast guard vessels present, and 10 Indonesian ships on patrol.
China has not claimed the Natuna islands themselves, but says it has nearby fishing rights within a self-proclaimed Nine-Dash Line that includes most of the South China Sea — a claim that is not recognized internationally.
In 2017, Indonesia renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea, as part of a push back against China’s maritime territorial ambitions.
The dispute has soured Indonesia’s generally friendly relationship with China, its biggest trading partner and a major investor in Southeast Asia’s largest country.
In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Luhut Pandjaitan, coordinating minister for maritime resources and investment, said that both Beijing and Jakarta will forge ahead with diplomatic discussions.
“What’s the point of war? Nothing. Wars are the last step to a failing diplomatic process,” Pandjaitan said.
The South China Sea is a global trade route with rich fishing grounds and energy reserves and China claims most of it based on what it says is its historic activity. But Southeast Asian countries, supported by the United States and much of the rest of the world, say such claims have no legal basis.
On Tuesday Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing has “opened diplomatic channels” with Indonesia since the latest incident, and said “both countries shoulder responsibility for maintaining regional peace and stability.”
The last peak in tensions between Indonesia and China over the South China Sea was in 2016. At the time, Widodo held a meeting with several of his ministers on board a naval ship in a show of support.

 


China asks recovered patients to donate plasma for virus treatment

Updated 43 min 47 sec ago

China asks recovered patients to donate plasma for virus treatment

  • Drugmakers are racing to develop a vaccine and treatment for the epidemic

BEJING: Chinese health officials Monday urged patients who have recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood so that plasma can be extracted to treat others who are critically ill.
Drugmakers are racing to develop a vaccine and treatment for the epidemic, which has which killed 1,770 people and infected over 70,500 people across China.
Plasma from patients who have recovered from a spell of pneumonia triggered by COVID-19 contains antibodies that can help reduce the virus load in critically ill patients, an official from China’s National Health Commission told a press briefing Monday.
“I would like to make a call to all cured patients to donate their plasma so that they can bring hope to critically ill patients,” said Guo Yanhong, who heads the NHC’s medical administration department.
Eleven patients at a hospital in Wuhan — the epicenter of the disease — received plasma infusions last week, said Sun Yanrong, of the Biological Center at the Ministry of Science and Technology.
“One patient (among them) has already been discharged, one is able to get off the bed and walk and the others are all recovering,” she said.
The call comes days after China’s state-owned medical products maker reported successful results from its trial at Wuhan First People’s Hospital.
China National Biotec Group Co. said in a post on its official WeChat account that severely ill patients receiving plasma infusions “improved within 24 hours.”
“Clinical studies have shown that infusing plasma (from recovered patients) is safe and effective,” Sun said.
Blood doners will undergo a test to ensure that they are not carrying the virus, said Wang Guiqiang, chief physician at Peking University First Hospital.
“Only plasma is taken, not all the blood,” he said.
“Other components of the blood including red blood cells and platelets will be infused back into the donors.”