US, ASEAN kick off drills amid maritime disputes with China
The United States has kicked off joint naval exercises with ten South East Asian countries, as part of war games that will be extended into the disputed South China Sea.
The war games, dubbed Asean-US Maritime Exercise (AUMX), set off at the Sattahip Naval Base in Thailand on Monday and will end after five days in Singapore.
The drills involve eight warships, four aircraft and more than a thousand troops from the both sides.
According to a US Navy statement, the drills would include “a sea phase in international waters in Southeast Asia, including the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea.”
The drills would focus partly on “search and seizure,” “maritime asset tracking” and “countering maritime threats,” among other excercises, said the statement.
All ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Brunei and Cambodia, are taking part in the war games.
Some of the participants, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, are locked in a dispute with Beijing over territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The war games, which are expected to cover the disputed waters, will irritate China, which is also engaged in a dispute with Washington in the East and South China Seas.