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Australia in hot water over 'very serious breach'

Indonesia furious over Australian breach of territorial waters, demanding the government immediately halt its asylum seeker boat policy. Nine News.

PT1M28S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-312am 620 349

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has personally apologised to her Indonesian counterpart, Dr Marty Natalegawa, over revelations Australian ships repeatedly breached Indonesian territorial waters in asylum seeker operations.

Indonesia said on Friday it would send a navy frigate to bolster its southern defences, and demanded Australia immediately stop turning asylum seekers' boats back to its territory.

In Perth, Ms Bishop confirmed she had contacted Dr Natalegawa to express Australia's regret for its actions.

HMAS Stuart is believed to be one of three Australian navy ships to have entered Indonesian waters.

HMAS Stuart is believed to be one of three Australian navy ships to have entered Indonesian waters.

"I have contacted him in writing," Ms Bishop said.

"I've sent a written apology on behalf of the Australian Government and also personally."

She would not discuss the contents of the letter, beyond saying she had apologised for the "inadvertent breaches" of Indonesia's territorial waters.

Immigration minister Scott Morrison offered an apology to the Indonesian government over incursions into their sovereign territory during an Operation Sovereign Borders briefing with Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell in Canberra on Friday 17 January 2014. Photo: Andrew Meares

Staying tight lipped over the incursions: Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, left, and the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Andrew Meares

"It is Australian government policy to respect Indonesia's territorial waters and that is our intention, that is what we will do," she said.

Anger is growing in Indonesia after it was revealed Australian ships repeatedly breached Indonesian territorial waters.

Australian navy and customs ships are suspected of having crossed Indonesia's 12-nautical-mile limit at least five times in the past month.

In response, Indonesia on Friday said it would step up its own maritime patrols in a move that could heighten the risk of confrontation.

"The government of Indonesia has the right to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with international laws and the charter of the United Nations," said Agus Barnas, the spokesman for the Co-ordinating Ministry of Political, Legal and Security Affairs.

The English-language newspaper Jakarta Globe ran a front-page headline thundering "A Deplorable Act", and observed: "In self-defence: Indonesia sends more naval vessels to its southern borders after Australian ships breach Indonesian waters".

Asked whether she was tiring of apologising to Dr Natalegawa, Ms Bishop said: "We are in regular communication. We are working together for the shared purpose of ensuring the people smuggling [model] is dismantled but also that the Australia-Indonesia relationship can strengthen. That's our shared purpose."

Meanwhile, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has revealed in a new book he felt betrayed by Tony Abbott over November's spying affair, describing Mr Abbott as his best friend.

In the book, titled Selalu Ada Pilihan (There is Always a Choice), President Yudhoyono writes of a deep sense of regret over the spying controversy, which emerged in November, when relations between Indonesia and Australia were on a high.

"When my best friend Tony Abbott made several statements before the Australian parliament suggesting the case was normal and refused to apologise, I could no longer stay silent," Dr Yudhoyono wrote in the book.

with AAP