Leadership: Indonesia Masses Its F-16 Against Malaysia


December 12,2008: 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.

Aside from 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;

-- Sipadam 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 of.

-- Padra Branca Islands, claimed by Malaysia and Singapore.

-- Louisa Reef, claimed by Malaysia & Brunei.

-- Spratly 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.

-- Paracel Islands, claimed by China, which occupies them, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

-- Sabah, 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 navigation.



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