Indonesia has asked China to clarify its claims over the South China Sea but has yet to receive a response, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, a day after Indonesia's security chief said Jakarta could take Beijing to court over an island dispute.

Beijing's claim to almost the entire resource-rich sea is shown on Chinese maps with a nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the waterway.

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Last year, the Indonesian armed forces chief accused China of including parts of the Indonesian-ruled Natuna islands within the nine-dash line.

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo's administration departed from its usual low-profile role in the dispute on Wednesday when security chief Luhut Panjaitan said Jakarta could take China to an international court if dialogue over the islands failed.

But China said on Thursday it did not dispute Indonesia's claim to the Natunas.

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"The position of Indonesia is clear at this stage that we do not recognise the nine-dash line because it is not in line with ... international law," Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir told reporters.

"We asked for clarification on what they mean and what they mean by the nine-dash line. That has not been clarified."

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Nasir could not say when the request through diplomatic channels was made to China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China did not dispute Indonesia's sovereignty over the Natunas but that there were "some maritime disputes". It was not clear what disputes he was referring to.

"We have consistently upheld that China and Indonesia should find a means of appropriate resolution through direct negotiations and consultation, with respect for international law and on the basis of historical fact," Hong said.

The Philippines has taken China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, a case Beijing refuses to recognise. For years, China has insisted that disputes with rival claimants be handled bilaterally.

When asked if Indonesia could also take China to court, as Panjaitan had said, Nasir responded: "We cannot preempt things before we know how they evolve. But what is clear is that we are not a claimant state and we don't recognise the issue of the nine-dash line, which we have made clear to China."

Regional leaders are expected to discuss the issue at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) later this month.