China and Indonesia have signed an agreement on sharing remote-sensing data. According to a report by IHS Jane’s 360, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Indonesian Maritime Security Coordinating Board (IMSCB) signed an agreement that will bolster Indonesian efforts to “enhance offshore security.” The two agencies signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on October 6 that will see CNSA share its remote sensing data with IMSCB ground stations. The specifics of how IMSCB plans to use the data remain unknown.
The agreement comes at a time when Indonesian officials have stated a degree of apprehension over a possible territorial dispute with China concerning the Natuna archipelago. In general, Indonesia is not one of the major countries engaged in a maritime dispute with China over South China Sea territories — a factor that likely made this agreement possible in the first place.
According to Jane‘s, CNSA’s remote sensing “data is intended to improve IMSCB early-warning capabilities and support maritime law enforcement and disaster relief response.” The MoU is also a follow-up to a 2012 China-Indonesia maritime collaboration agreement. Last year, also in October, Indonesia and China signed an MoU on the industrialization of fisheries which included a clause on bilateral cooperation in the eradication of illegal fishing. Earlier this year, Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, noted that China hoped to strengthen maritime cooperation with Indonesia as Indonesian military chief Moeldoko visited Beijing.
Overall, at a time when China is growing increasingly assertive in the South China Sea, where it maintains a capacious territorial claim based on historical maps, its relations with Indonesia remain stable. Despite the lingering issue of the Natuna archipelago — which Beijing has included within the confines of its “nine dashed line” claim to the South China Sea — Indonesia and China continue to maintain friendly relations.
Remote sensing data itself could prove highly valuable for Indonesia, a country without a space program as developed as China’s. Through the measurement of propagated waves, remote sensing data can paint a detailed picture of a large geographic area. Additionally, remote sensing can describe atmospheric variables. Remote sensing data have several applications including for conventional radars, maritime surveillance, topography, marine resource management, and environmental monitoring. China has been developing its space-based remote sensing capabilities for some time. Last month, it launched the Yaogan-21 and Tiantuo-2 satellites, which are expected to deliver remote sensing data for scientific and economic purposes.