US, ASEAN kick off first joint naval drills

3 September, 2019 12:00 AM printer

BANGKOK: The United States and ten Southeast Asian countries kicked off maritime drills on Monday, as part of a joint exercise extending into the flashpoint South China Sea with eight warships, four aircraft and more than a thousand personnel, reports AFP.

The first ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise (AUMX) between the regional bloc and Washington will last for five days, starting at the Sattahip Naval Base in Thailand and ending in Singapore.

The drills come at a time of stepped-up US engagement in the region and tensions between Beijing and Southeast Asian nations over the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Co-led by the US and Royal Thai navies, the exercises will stretch into “international waters in Southeast Asia, including the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea” before concluding in Singapore, according to a statement from the US embassy in Bangkok.

“AUMX builds greater maritime security on the strength of ASEAN, the strength of our navy-to-navy bonds, and the strength of our shared belief in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Rear Admiral Joey Tynch, who oversees the US Navy’s security cooperation in Southeast Asia.


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