Most would view this as a strengthening of ties and buildup of trust. While this is correct, it’s only partially. Where this is leading to is an Asian bloc without the United States — an actual abandonment of the West as Asia will come under Beijing’s umbrella of protection.
Symbolic exercise off Guangdong province with ASEAN navies; exercise comes at a time of tension over China’s military buildup on disputed atolls
Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe has hailed the first, week-long naval exercise by China and ASEAN nations, off the city of Zhanjiang in southern Guangdong province, as a milestone showcasing the shared resolve of China and ASEAN states to safeguard regional peace.
Wei made the remarks while meeting heads of military observer groups from the 10 ASEAN nations in Zhanjiang, prior to the start of the symbolic drill on Monday.
It is the first time that ASEAN has conducted a joint drill with a single country outside the bloc. Participants will compare notes on rescue, military medication and diving techniques, followed by a session to formulate contingency plans and strategies for a variety of hypothetical scenarios, according to the People’s Daily.
Three Chinese vessels – the destroyer Guangzhou, frigate Huangshan and replenishment ship Junshanhu – will sail along with five vessels from ASEAN nations. The latter vessels are a frigate from Singapore (the Stalwart), plus frigates from Thailand and Vietnam, a logistic support vessel from the Philippines (the Dagupan City) and a patrol vessel from Brunei.
The ASEAN delegations were also invited to inspect a new Chinese-guided missile destroyer and training ship from the People’s Liberation Army’s Zhanjiang-based South Sea Fleet.
One focus of the ongoing drill is maritime safety, as well as search and rescue operations featuring the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).
The code is an agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea between signatory countries, and to prevent any conflict from escalating.
The code, a set of communications protocols, was first broached a decade earlier, but China opposed earlier versions, reportedly unhappy with the word “code” (implying legal force) in the title.
Maritime drill off Malaysia also
Apart from the maritime drill off China, armed forces from the PLA, Malaysia and Thailand are conducting a 10-day drill in areas off Port Dickson in Malaysia.
Full article: China-ASEAN naval drill to focus on code to stop conflict (Asia Times)