China, ASEAN hold first joint naval ex­er­cise

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus -

THE first joint field ex­er­cise be­tween the navies of China and the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions be­gan on Mon­day off the coast of south­ern China.

The ASEAN-CHINA Mar­itime Ex­er­cise is be­ing held through Sun­day off Zhan­jiang, Guang­dong Province, in the South China Sea where China’s ter­ri­to­rial claims over­lap those of four ASEAN states – Viet­nam, the Philip­pines, Malaysia and Brunei.

The field train­ing ex­er­cise, coor­gan­ised by the navies of China and Singapore, in­volves naval ships from China, the Philip­pines, Singapore, Thai­land and Viet­nam, and more than 1000 per­son­nel.

The 10-mem­ber ASEAN also in­cludes Cambodia, In­done­sia, Laos and Myan­mar.

At an open­ing cer­e­mony at Ma Xie Naval Base at­tended by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all 11 coun­tries, Singapore’s navy chief Rear Adm. Lew Chuen Hong em­pha­sised the South China Sea’s im­por­tance to the re­gion, and how mu­tual pros­per­ity is only pos­si­ble if the sea is sta­ble and se­cure.

“To al­low the sta­ble and col­lec­tive use of a shared space, a set of com­mon rules and un­der­stand­ing is very im­por­tant,” he was quoted as say­ing by Singapore’s Straits Times news­pa­per.

He gave as ex­am­ples the UN Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea, adopted in 1982, and the Code for Un­planned En­coun­ters at Sea that was agreed to by ASEAN and re­gional pow­ers last year.

On Sun­day, Chi­nese De­fence Min­is­ter Gen­eral Wei Fenghe said in a meet­ing with the heads of the ASEAN del­e­ga­tions that the ex­er­cise marks an im­por­tant mile­stone in CHINA-ASEAN re­la­tions, while demon­strat­ing the con­fi­dence and de­ter­mi­na­tion of both sides to main­tain re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity. The field ex­er­cise was pro­posed by China in 2015 and agreed to at a meet­ing be­tween Wei and ASEAN de­fence min­is­ters in Fe­bru­ary.

As an ini­tial step, a two-day table­top ex­er­cise, which fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing plans to con­duct joint res­cue op­er­a­tions at sea, was held be­tween Chi­nese and ASEAN navies in Singapore in Au­gust.

At the ASEAN de­fence min­is­ters’ meet­ing in Singapore last week, they reaf­firmed the ASEAN-CHINA Mar­itime Ex­er­cise as an im­por­tant con­fi­dence-build­ing mea­sure and re­vealed that a sim­i­lar field ex­er­cise will be held with the US Navy next year.

It would be the first of its kind in­volv­ing the United States and all 10 ASEAN coun­tries and ap­pears to be aimed at strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween China and the United States – the two ma­jor pow­ers with con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence in the re­gion, es­pe­cially in the South China Sea. – Ky­odo

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