Credit by EPA | Philippine navy personnel stand in formation during a send-off ceremony.
ASEAN Nations Kick Off Navy Drills with the United States
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ASEAN Nations Kick Off Navy Drills with the United States

Eight warships, four aircraft and more than 1,000 personnel from the 

US and 10 Southeast Asian countries joined maritime drills kicking off on Monday, as part of a joint exercise extending into the flashpoint South China Sea. The first Asean-US Maritime Exercise (AUMX) between the regional bloc and Washington lasts for five days, starting at the Sattahip Naval Base in Thailand and ending in Singapore, AFP via South China Morning Post reported.

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.

Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei navies hold maritime drills near the South China Sea while en route to the first ever Asean-US maritime exercises. Image: the Philippine Navy
Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei navies hold maritime drills near the South China Sea while en route to the first ever Asean-US maritime exercises. Image: the Philippine Navy

"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.

All 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will take part in the exercises which include the boarding of target vessels to simulate search and seizure.

United States Navy sailors monitoring radar and other instruments aboard the guided-missile cruiser U.S.S. Chancellorsville in the South China Sea in 2016. Image: Bryan Denton for The New York Times
United States Navy sailors monitoring radar and other instruments aboard the guided-missile cruiser U.S.S. Chancellorsville in the South China Sea in 2016. Image: Bryan Denton for The New York Times

 “The exercise is not focused or dedicated against or towards anyone else. It’s to enhance the skills of Asean and the US working together,” he told reporters in a telephone briefing Tuesday, as quoted by Inquirer.

“The challenges we face in the maritime domain extend beyond what any single nation can handle, and that’s where partners and allies are force multipliers for peace and interoperability,” he said. “That’s an unparalleled advantage that no competitor or rival can match. I fully believe we are stronger when we sail together.”

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