Indonesia has dispatched an F-16 fighter, and its ground crew, to an
airfield in Makassar, on nearby South Sulawesi island, to defend the nearby Ambalat
region (between Sipadam and Ligatan Islands) from Malaysia, which claims ownership of the place. The area is believed
to contain large gas and oil deposits. This is a common situation in the
region, where there are many disputed islands sitting on possible oil fields.
This sort of thing has long been a cause for wars. All it takes is a country
that feels it is losing out because a border is not where everyone agrees is
should be. Same thing with islands. There are dozens of these island disputes
worldwide. Most are not active issues, except for the fact that an
international treaty (the 1982 Law of the Sea) gives whoever owns these
uninhabited rocks rights to fishing, and oil drilling, for over three hundred
kilometers from each of these tiny bits of land.
prestige and possible historical ties, the primary reasons countries are
claiming ownership of these uninhabited bits of land has to do with the ability
to control sea lanes, defining maritime economic zones, possible tourist
dollars in some instance, and oil, rumored to underlie much of the area. The
principal islands involved (and the nations claiming ownership) are;
and Ligatan Islands, claimed by Malaysia and Indonesia -- this is one that has
always seemed most likely to cause trouble in the near term. Two years ago,
warships from both countries confronted each other in the area, with a
Malaysian ship ramming an Indonesian one, causing minor damage to both vessels.
Malaysian warships have been chasing Indonesian fishing boats out of the area.
Both nations have awarded oil concessions to companies, but no one is willing
to search for oil until the diplomatic, and military, friction is taken care
Branca Islands, claimed by Malaysia and Singapore.
Reef, claimed by Malaysia & Brunei.
Islands, claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, &
Brunei: They're a bunch of some 100 rocks, reefs, cays, shoals, mud banks, and
even islands. China claims them all, but occupies only 8, Vietnam has occupied
or marked 25, the Philippines 8, Malaysia 6, and Taiwan one.
Islands, claimed by China, which occupies them, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
claimed by Philippines & Malaysia. This is a province of Malaysia, which
the Filipinos claim was ceded to the Sultan of Sulu (now part of the
Philippines) back in the 1870s.
In some of
these there have also been periodic clashes over who maintains aids to