Indonesians fire on Chinese ship
AN Indonesian warship has opened fire on a Chinese fishing fleet in waters close to Australia's north, killing one crew member and wounding two.
Monday's incident in the Arafura Sea happened after an Indonesian warship intercepted four Chinese-flagged vessels suspected of using illegal nets in Indonesian-controlled waters between Papua New Guinea and the Northern Territory.
The Chinese ships refused to answer radio and visual signals from the patrol frigate KRI Tanjung Dalpele and three warning shots were fired, an Indonesian Navy spokesman said.
When the ships failed to stop, several more shots were fired at the side and propeller area of a Chinese vessel, which veered towards the warship before stopping.
An Indonesian boarding party found one dead Chinese crewman.
Two other Chinese men were wounded and treated on board the Indonesian vessel.
"We were upholding the law," Eastern Fleet spokesman Toni Syaiful told El Shinta radio.
Three of the Chinese ships escaped.
The fourth, the MV Fu Yuan Yu, was taken into Indonesian custody and towed to Merauke port, near the border with Papua New Guinea.
Although Chinese President Hu Jintao has not yet commented, the incident is likely to trigger a diplomatic row.
Canberra is expected to closely watch developments given the proximity of the clash to Australia's north, where the Royal Australian Navy regularly patrols against illegal fishing, usually by Indonesians.
The Federal Government's foreign policy emphasises improved diplomatic ties with both Asian giants.
The shooting incident is the latest in a series of territorial brushes involving Indonesian warships.
In March, the foreign ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to a military stand-down in a month-long territorial standoff sparked by Malaysia's decision to grant an oil exploration concession in disputed waters north of Sulawesi island.
Jakarta sent seven warships and four F-16 Falcon warplanes to the area and Indonesia's military vowed it would not let an inch of Indonesian territory fall into the hands of foreigners.
Indonesian warships have also been accused of incursions into East Timorese waters as an increasingly assertive military seeks to modernise and expand its fleet.
Protests from heavyweight China are likely to have more impact on Jakarta than fledgling East Timor.