Indonesia president warns over super-power tensions in UN address

Tom Allard, Reuters

Posted at Sep 23 2020 01:26 PM

Indonesia president warns over super-power tensions in UN address 1
Lightning flashes over the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz as it transits the South China Sea July 4, 2020. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Philip Wagner, Jr./Reuters

JAKARTA— Indonesia's President Joko Widodo used his first address to the United Nations General Assembly to warn on Wednesday that global stability and peace could be "destroyed" if growing geo-political rivalries persist.

"War will benefit no one. There is no point of celebrating victory among ruins. There is no point of becoming the largest economic power in the midst of a sinking world," said the president, widely known as Jokowi.

His comments came as tensions between the United States and China escalate, including in the disputed South China Sea.

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, a position rejected by Washington and some Southeast Asian states, including Indonesia, citing provisions in the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

Earlier this month, Indonesia's government protested when a Chinese coast guard vessel entered the portion of the South China Sea it claims. It was the latest of several Chinese incursions in the past year.

"The principles of the UN Charter and international law are often neglected, including the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity," Jokowi told the UN. 

The dangers of US-China tensions was picked up by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The Philippines has competing claims with China in the South China Sea.

"Given the size and military might of the contenders, we can only imagine and be aghast at the terrible toll on human life and property that shall be inflicted if the 'word war' deteriorates into a real war of nuclear weapons and missiles," he told the UN general assembly.

Jokowi said the coronavirus pandemic was a time for global unity.

"What we see, instead, is one of deep division and growing rivalries," he said. "If division and rivalries continue to persist, then I am concerned that the pillars of stability and sustainable peace will crumble or even (be) destroyed."

He said that Indonesia would be a "bridge builder" and advocate for global equality.