A joint naval exercise is to be held from 20th to 29th October between China, Malaysia and Thailand in the Strait of Malacca which would follow US defense Secretary James Mattis’s visits to Vietnam and Singapore, a trip which began on 15th October.
China is to send three destroyers and frigates, two shipborne helicopters, three II-76 transport aircraft and a total of 692 dispatched from the Southern Theater Command of the PLA and the PLA garrisons in Hong Kong and Macau SARs, to the nine-day exercise named Peace and Friendship 2018.
The drills start from 20th October and will be held off Port Dickson and Port Klang in Malaysia. China’s defense ministry said that the exercise was intended to demonstrate the common will of the armed forces of the three countries to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea region, strengthen practical exchanges and cooperation, and enhance their ability to jointly respond to various security threats. It went on to add that, “It does not target any country.”
The drill is held amid the increasing bitter competition between China and the United States regarding the control of the South China Sea, which has spilled over into a tense stand-off between the two countries’ navies in the disputed South China Sea, as a result of which last month an American warship and a Chinese one came close to colliding in the waters near the Spratly Islands.
It is the second time China has taken part in a drill in the Strait of Malacca which sits on one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, which links the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
The exercise will follow Mattis’s visits, to Vietnam for the second time this year, and then to Singapore for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defense minister’s meeting.