Thousands of Indonesian and US troops yesterday began a two-week joint military exercise that Washington said aims to advance “regional cooperation in support of a free and open” Asia-Pacific region.
The US and its Asian allies have expressed growing concern about China’s increasing assertiveness in the Pacific, but Washington said the drills were not aimed at any nation even though they would be significantly larger than previous exercises.
At least 4,000 US and Indonesian troops would be joined by forces from Australia and Singapore — as well as Japan, which is participating for the first time in the annual drills, known as “Super Garuda Shield.”
The military exercise is taking place on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra and the Riau Islands, an Indonesian province of islets scattered near Singapore and Malaysia.
“This is really an exercise to build trust, build togetherness, mutual understanding, increase capability and other related matters,” Major General Stephen Smith, commander of the participating US troops, told reporters in Jakarta on Friday.
“So this is really a military exercise and not a threat to any party,” he said.
The exercise comes as US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi leads a congressional delegation to the region in the shadow of diplomatic tensions with China.
The exercise is to last until Aug. 14 encompassing army, navy, air force and marine drills.
An opening ceremony with all participating nations is to take place tomorrow, an Indonesian official said.
Canada, France, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the UK are to participate as observer nations.
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