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US, 10 ASEAN Navies Begin Their First Joint Military Exercises

WASHINGTON – The United States and 10 countries in Southeast Asia launched maritime exercises on Monday as part of a joint exercise that includes eight warships, four aircraft and more than a thousand people, the Defense Post announced Monday.
The first ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise (AUMX) between the regional bloc and Washington will last five days, starting September 2 at the Sattahip Naval Base in Thailand and Singapore.
The exercises come at a time when the United States has stepped up its engagement in the region and has tightened tensions in the South China Sea between Beijing and the Southeast Asian countries, some of whose parts are being claimed by ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Co-led by the US and Thai Royal Navies, the exercises will cover “international waters in Southeast Asia, including the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea” before ending in Singapore, according to a report statement of the US Embassy in Bangkok.
“AUMX strengthens maritime safety through the strength of ASEAN, the strength of our marine-to-marine ties and the strength of our common belief in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Rear-Admiral Joey Tynch, who oversees the United States Naval Security Cooperation in South-East Asia.
US assets participating in the exercise include USS Montgomery Coastal Combat Ship, USS Miss E. Meyer guided missile destroyer, three Sea Hawk MH-60 helicopters, one Poseidon P-8 aircraft and squadron personnel Destroyer 7 and at CTF 73.
The joint exercises have been criticized for closing in the Myanmar Navy in a rare manifestation of inclusion despite the sanctions imposed by Washington on senior officials of the National Army on the Rohingya crisis.
The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will participate in the exercises, which include boarding the targeted ships to simulate the search and seizure.
They are unfolding as a Chinese survey ship remains in waters claimed by Vietnam, prompting the Pentagon last week to accuse Beijing of efforts to “violate the rules-based international order throughout the Indo-Pacific.”
During a visit to Thailand last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged nations in Southeast Asia to fight Chinese “coercion” in the sea.
During a visit to the Cambodian capital on Monday, Malaysian President Mahathir Mohamad told China that exercises in the region have the right to feel “threatened”.
“Now, if China were organizing naval manoeuvres off New York,” he said with applause, “then I think New Yorkers might not feel so comfortable.”
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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