THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has joined forces with the United States in holding maritime exercises which were aimed at preventing other countries’ “wrongdoings.”
The US Embassy in Bangkok announced in a statement on Friday that the exercises will be launched on September 2 at a naval base in Chonburi province in Thailand, and will run for five days.
The embassy said the purpose of the drill was to “maintain maritime security, focus on prevention and pre-empt wrongdoing in the sea.” This was amid the escalating tensions between the US and China, and between the latter and Vietnam.
Primarily, the drills will take off the coast Ca Mau province in Vietnam where the US Navy will deploy so-called “suspicious boats” in a mock exercise that will help its ASEAN counterparts search, verify, and legally prosecute the boats.
In July this year, tensions heated up between China and Vietnam following news that a Chinese survey ship entered waters Vietnam has oil and gas projects.
However, a Thai Defense Ministry spokesman downplayed the timing of the US-ASEAN drills, saying ASEAN held exercises with China, “[and] now we are having exercises with the US.”
“It has nothing to do with the current situation,” Lieutenant General Kongcheep Tantravanich was quoted as saying.
Last Friday, a US military ship passed through the Taiwan Strait, three days after the US State Department approved Taiwan’s purchase of $8 billion F16 fighter jets, subject to approval of the US Senate and House of Representatives. Both chambers, however, were expected to give the go-signal.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said US’ sailing through was to conduct a “freedom of navigation” voyage.
Taiwan said it also welcomed the sale, saying it would help it to defend itself against the military threat from the mainland.
However, a mainland Chinese military official believed that the transaction will not help defend the island but will only be a financial burden.
Beijing has also repeatedly condemned American fighting arms to Taiwan, as it deemed the transaction harmful to China’s sovereignty and national security.
The arms sale was first announced in July this year, where it approved the sale of some $2.2 billion worth of tanks, missiles and related equipment to Taiwan. Beijing also said it would sanction the relevant US firms, which included General Dynamics and Raytheon.
It can be learned that China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must eventually be reunified with the mainland.
PHOTO COURTESY: Flickr