Indonesia will sharply strengthen security around its South China Sea islands where there have been clashes with Chinese vessels, the defence minister said on Wednesday, a day after Beijing’s claims in the sea were declared invalid. In an interview with AFP, Ryamizard Ryacudu said bolstering defences around Indonesia’s Natuna Islands would involve deploying warships, an F-16 fighter jet, surface-to-air missiles, a radar and drones, as well as constructing new ports and improving an airstrip. This will be our eyes and ears Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu The military build-up, which started in recent months, would be completed in “less than a year,” he said. “This will be our eyes and ears,” the retired general said. “So that we can really see what is happening in the Natunas and the surrounding area in the South China Sea.” Unlike several of its Southeast Asian neighbours, Indonesia has long maintained it has no maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea and does not contest ownership of any territory. But Beijing’s claims overlap Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone – waters where a state has the right to exploit resources – around the Natunas, and there has been an upsurge in clashes between Indonesian patrol and navy boats and Chinese fishing vessels and coastguards. Indonesia has become increasingly irate over Chinese incursions into its waters and after a clash last month, President Joko Widodo visited the Natunas on a warship with his cabinet to send a message to China that Jakarta is serious about defending the remote archipelago. As well as the military hardware, Indonesia will send special air force and marine task forces as well as an army battalion to the Natunas, once barracks and housing have been built, Ryacudu said. He insisted that Indonesia was not adding to the growing militarisation of the South China Sea, and suggested it had a right to defend its borders. No illegal verdict will ever resolve South China Sea disputes “It is our front door, why is it not guarded?” he said. A UN-backed tribunal in The Hague ruled on Tuesday against China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, finding in favour of the Philippines which filed the challenge and is a claimant state in the sea disputes. China has responded furiously, warning its rivals Wednesday against turning the sea into a “cradle of war” and threatening an air defence zone there.