The United States is funding a new training center for the Indonesian Coast Guard (Bakamla) on Batam Island, near the intersection of the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Singapore. U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Y. Kim presided over a groundbreaking ceremony for the new installation on Friday, according to the embassy in Jakarta.
“As friends and partners of Indonesia, the United States remains committed to supporting Indonesia’s leading role in advancing regional peace and security by countering domestic and transnational crime,” said Ambassador Kim.
The $3.5 million dollar training center will have classrooms, office space, barracks, a commissary and a vessel launch ramp. It will have enough space for up to 50 students and 12 instructors. Bakamla will own and operate the center in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, among other American agencies.
The new location is within easy reach of Changi Naval Base, one of the U.S. Navy's primary staging points in the Far East. It is also near the eastbound lane of the Strait of Singapore, a known region for maritime pirates and an area of concern for Bakamla.
Bakamla provides maritime security assurance for Indonesia's giant 2.4 million square mile exclusive economic zone, the sixth-largest in the world. This task includes defending Indonesian waters against incursions by unlicensed foreign fishing vessels and the maintenance of Indonesian sovereignty in the Natuna Islands, where Chinese fishing operators have repeatedly encroached in recent years. Drone submersibles with Chinese characteristics have also been recovered in Indonesian waters, raising concerns about Chinese naval surveillance and reconnaissance efforts within Indonesia's territorial seas.
"Geopolitically, this is a clear signal for the U.S. to confront China’s presence in the region, especially after the salvage operation of the [submarine] KRI Nanggala-402 with the help of Chinese naval ships," said Aristyo Rizka Darmawan of the University of Indonesia's Center for Sustainable Ocean Policy, speaking to Benar News.