Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, right, and her Japanese counterpart Motegi Toshimitsu in Jakarta on Friday. (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

Indonesia, Japan to Beef Up Cooperation in Outermost Islands

BY :NUR YASMIN

JANUARY 10, 2020

Jakarta. Indonesia and Japan are pursuing more cooperation in investment and infrastructure development in Natuna and Indonesia's other outer islands as both countries seek to bolster their strategic presence in the Indo-Pacific region.  

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met with her Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi on Friday to tell him of Indonesia's intention for Japan to increase investment in the maritime sector. 

"In Natuna we agreed on a partnership to develop the second phase of the integrated marine and fishing center [SKPT] and to build more seaports and fish markets," Retno said at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Friday.

Motegi said Japan will start constructing the seaports and fish markets in February. Japan will also provide coast guard boats and help develop tourism in Natuna. 

Motegi had also met with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo before his meeting with Retno, during which he talked with the president about Japanese investment in Natuna.

"I hope the funding proposal for the second phase [of the SKPT development] can be followed up immediately," Jokowi said at the State Palace in Jakarta on Friday.

Japan started the first phase of the SKPT development in 2018. At the same time, it also spent 2.5 billion yen ($22.8 million) to build six integrated fishing centers in Sabang, Natuna, Morotai, Saumlaki, Moa and Biak.

The facilities are part of a Jokowi-initiated program to develop Indonesia's remote areas. They include the establishment of 20 integrated marine and fishing centers.

Japan is one of the largest importers of Indonesian fish, buying 2,800 tons of it in 2018 according to the Central Statistics Agency.

Indo-Pacific Presence

The foreign ministers also discussed the possibility of strengthening strategic cooperation between the two countries during their meeting on Friday. "We will work together to strengthen security on our sea borders, including by exchanging Indo-Pacific maritime domain information," Retno said.

The minister said the Indonesia-Japan regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) should be signed this year as well as the Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (IJEPA).

"We will arrange a 2+2 meeting between both countries' foreign and defense ministers. We should strengthen the three-way cooperation between Indonesia, Japan and Timor Leste," Retno said.

Motegi said Japan will lend an undisclosed amount of money to rehabilitate Southeast Sulawesi from earthquake and tsunami damages in 2018.

He also said Japan will continue extending the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) network in Jakarta, improving Japanese language education and conducting all sorts of training for Indonesian workers.

Japan is Indonesia's second-biggest trade and investment partner, with $23.85 billion in bilateral trade and $3.24 billion in investment recorded between January and September last year.

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