“Indonesian warplanes on Thursday staged a large-scale exercise”

Indonesian warplanes on Thursday staged a large-scale exercise on the edge of South China Sea territory claimed by Beijing, a show of force that adds to regional uncertainty sparked by the Philippines’ sudden tilt away from the United States. President Joko Widodo watched from Ranai, capital of the Natuna Islands archipelago, with hundreds of military officials as about 70 jets carried out manoeuvres that included a dog fight and dropping bombs on targets off the coast. “The president has a policy that all the outer islands that are strategic will be strengthened, be it air, maritime or land,” Gatot Nurmantyo, commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, told reporters. “Our country needs to have an umbrella. From corner to corner, we have to safeguard it.” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters in Ranai that the exercise was “routine”, but it was also Indonesia’s biggest so far and follows a move by Widodo in June to hold a cabinet meeting on board a warship off the Natuna islands”.

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