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Indonesia protests Chinese intervention in illegal fishing dispute

Jakarta has arrested eight Chinese fishermen accused of illegally fishing in Indonesia's territorial waters. A Chinese official said they were operating in "traditional Chinese fishing grounds."

Indonesian Maritime Affairs Minister Susi Pudjiastuti on Monday protested China's intervention in an illegal fishing dispute near the Natuna Islands.

Authorities detained eight Chinese fishermen on Sunday after their vessel was caught fishing in the Indonesia's exclusive economic zone in the contested South China Sea. Chinese coast guard vessels intervened early Sunday, preventing Indonesian authorities from securing the fishing vessel, the minister said.

"We will ask the Chinese government to return the arrested ship," Susi said in comments carried by English-language daily The Jakarta Post.

"Although the ship has gone, we did manage to arrest its crew of prosecution. (China) should not have behaved in that way because a national government should not step in to support illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing," Susi added.

Beijing's territorial assertions in the South China Sea have come under scrutiny for overlapping with neighboring countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

However, China does not contest Indonesia's administration of the Natuna Islands, near the location of the reported incident nor does Jakarta share overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

'Negotiations and dialogue'

Chinese envoy to Indonesia Sun Weide said in a statement Sunday that the area is "traditional Chinese fishing grounds," adding that the detainees should be released, reported Reuters news agency

"When it comes to fishery disputes, or maritime issues, China is always ready to work with Indonesia to solve these disputes through negotiations and dialogue," the official said.

Earlier this month, Chinese Chief Justice Zhou Qiang announced plans to establish an international maritime judicial center during the National People's Congress annual session.

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