The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China launched the first-ever maritime exercise off the coast of Zhanjiang city, southern Guangdong province on October 22.
The joint exercise, co-organised by the navies of China and Singapore, the chair of ASEAN in 2018, involves eight naval ships and about 1,200 personnel from 11 countries. The week-long drill includes joint search and rescue operation.
At the opening ceremony attended by all ten ASEAN nations and China, Singapore’s navy chief Rear Admiral Lew Chuen Hong emphasised the East Sea’s importance to the region, and affirmed that the regional prosperity is only possible if the sea is stable and secure.
According to Lew, it is important to have a set of common rules and understanding to allow the stable and collective use of a shared space. He gave the examples of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) agreed by ASEAN and regional powers last year.
Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe said in a meeting with heads of the ASEAN delegations on October 21 that the exercise not only marks a significant milestone in the history of China – ASEAN relations but also demonstrates the confidence and determination of both sides to maintain regional peace and stability.
The drill will run through October 28, including joint search and rescue operation.
It was proposed by China in 2015 and agreed to be held at a meeting between Wei and ASEAN defence ministers in February last year.
A similar exercise will be held between ASEAN and the US next year.