JAKARTA --- Indonesian lawmakers on Tuesday approved higher defense spending this year to fund, among other things, major upgrades to military facilities in the Natuna Islands, whose nearby waters Beijing says are subject to "over-lapping claims".
Parliament's approval came just days after President Joko Widodo visited the remote island chain to assert sovereignty over the area, in what Indonesian officials described as the strongest message that has been given to China.
China's increasingly assertive actions in the South China Sea, which are worrying Southeast Asian countries, are fuelling an increase in security spending in the region.
"(Natuna) needs to be guarded and to do that the military needs to have proper facilities, they need additional funds," said Johnny Plate, a member of parliament's budget committee.
Parliament approved an increase to the defense ministry's budget this year to 108.7 trillion rupiah ($8.25 billion), up nearly 10 percent from the initial 2016 budget. (end of excerpt)
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