Asean bloc to hold first joint military drills at sea

SOUTH-EAST Asian nations have agreed to hold their first-ever joint military drills in the South China Sea, as tensions grow over China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.

“We will hold joint military drills in the North Natuna Sea,” Indonesian military chief Yudo Margono said after a meeting of South-East Asian defence chiefs in Bali, state news agency Antara reported.

They will take place in September involving all 10 members of the Asean bloc and observer member Timor-Leste, he said.

That would include junta-ruled Myanmar, where the military has overthrown a civilian leader and overseen a bloody crackdown on dissent that has resulted in wide-ranging US and EU sanctions.

Margono said the exercises will focus on maritime security and rescue, and will not involve combat operations.

“It is about Asean centrality,” he said. — AFP

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