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CHINA And ASEAN Countries Hold Joint Maritime Exercise

Contingents From The Participating Nations Forming Up For The Opening Ceremony Of The ASEAN-China Maritime Field Training Exercise, Photo Credit: LIANHE ZAOBAO Contingents From The Participating Nations Forming Up For The Opening Ceremony Of The ASEAN-China Maritime Field Training Exercise, Photo Credit: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Attended by all 11 countries of ASEAN, 8 vessels and more than 1,200 personnel from both sides will take part in the 7-day long drill held between China and the ASEAN countries. Among the 11 member countries of the ASEAN, China has territorial disputes with a few over islands in the South China Sea.
The exercise is the first of its kind and was kicked off in Zhanjiang in China's southern Guangdong province on 22nd October after an opening ceremony in Ma Xie Naval Base which was presided over by, among others, Singapore chief of navy, Rear-Admiral Lew Chuen Hong and his Chinese counterpart, Vice-Admiral Yuan Yubai, commander of the People Liberation Army Navy's Southern Theatre Command. The Singapore chief of navy Rear-Admiral Lew Chuen Hong emphasized the sea's importance to the region, and how prosperity could be possible only if the sea is stable and secure. He added, "To allow the stable and collective use of a shared space, a set of common rules and understanding is very important," giving the examples of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, adopted in 1982, and a naval code agreed to by ASEAN and regional powers last year. RADM Lew said that since ancient times, the ocean carried trade across the Asia-Pacific, and ships plied the maritime silk route from ports in Guangzhou, throughout South-east Asia, to the Middle East, Africa and beyond. "Asia's phenomenal growth, especially in the last 50 years, has uplifted all our nations and our peoples. That growth is literally carried on the sea," he added. RADM Lew also said that the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) is one example of promoting practical cooperation and norms - "it enhances operational-level communication and reduces risk of miscalculations". The code was adopted by the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus last year - a grouping which includes the United States, China, Russia and Japan. He noted that ASEAN defense ministers had reaffirmed the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise as an important confidence-building measure at the 12th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting in Singapore a week before the exercise commenced.
Vice-Admiral Yuan said in his speech that the exercise was a significant move towards regional security, collaboration and confidence-building. “I am confident that the exercise will yield its expected outcomes, become a predominant platform for deepening mutual understanding and exchange, and set a new milestone for a community of a shared future between China and ASEAN.”
Speaking to reporters on the 13th October, Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said that the exercise was a "very positive engagement", and that China was "very happy" with it. He went on to add, "I think it's always better that you have exercise and you have troops meeting each other, having the same mission, looking at each other eye-to-eye and planning together, rather than across the table at cross purposes and contending on issues on the opposite side."
He visited the exercise on 23rd October, before going to Beijing to attend the 8th Beijing Xiangshan Forum, which brings together high-level defense, military and foreign affairs leaders from around the world to discuss security issues.
Singapore and China are co-organizing the six-day drill, which is expected to involve helicopter cross-deck landings and a joint search and rescue operation. Representing Singapore is the Formidable-class frigate RSS Stalwart, which arrived on Sunday, while China is sending a destroyer ship, Guangzhou; a frigate, Huangshan; and a supply ship, Junshanhu. The other ships participating are a patrol vessel from Brunei, a logistics support vessel from the Philippines, and a frigate each from Thailand and Vietnam. Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar sent observers.
The field training exercise comes after a two-day table-top exercise held at the RSS Singapura - Changi Naval Base in August this year. Then, naval officers from the 11 countries discussed plans to tackle simulated scenarios, such as search and rescue operations, and medical evacuation.
[Straits Times, NHK]