Southeast Asia's Game of Thrones
Indonesia Will Sink Dozens of Foreign Boats

Indonesia has some theatrical plans for its Independence Day festivities, the AP reports:

Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said Monday that boats from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and China will be sunk simultaneously at several locations on the Aug. 17 national holiday.

Many of the boats were captured off Indonesia’s Natuna Islands in the southern reaches of the South China Sea.

Back in April, Indonesia sunk about twenty vessels, sending a signal to foreign governments about its territorial interests. The upcoming display will channel the strong nationalist sentiments of President Joko Widodo and his supporters.

Indonesia’s neighbors won’t be happy, but Jakarta is sticking to its independent position: no alliances with Beijing or against it. Over the past few months, Indonesia–China relations have gotten rougher, but not enough to drive President Jokowi to rethink relations with Malaysia or Vietnam or the Philippines. Indonesia remains an equal opportunity sinker of fishing vessels.

So it goes in Southeast Asia. As nationalist fervor rises and anger about maritime disputes grows, it drives apart not just China and the rest, but the rest from each other. Last month ASEAN was unable to agree on language responding to the Hague’s ruling denying China rights to various features in the South China Sea. It’s a pattern, and one that makes the U.S. goal of pushing back against Beijing’s aggression extremely challenging.

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