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S.E. Asia, U.S. to hold first-ever sea drills

AFPBANGKOK (AFP-Jiji) — The United States and 10 Southeast Asian states will hold their first-ever joint maritime exercises in September, aimed at preventing “wrongdoing” as Washington and Beijing jostle for influence in the region.

Washington has traditionally been the dominant naval power in Southeast Asia and its reengagement with the area comes as a deteriorating trade war with China threatens to engulf the global economy.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended a regional summit earlier this month with the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in a bid to promote the Trump administration’s so-called “Indo-Pacific” strategy.

Also a source of friction is China’s expansive claims to the South China Sea, as the resource-rich waters contain some of the world’s most vital commercial shipping lanes.

Despite having conflicting interests with four rival claimants in ASEAN, China last year held a joint maritime drill with the regional bloc.

The navies of the U.S. and ASEAN will do the same on Sept. 2, the U.S. embassy in Bangkok announced late Friday, with the exercises launching at a Thai naval base in Chonburi Province east of Bangkok.

The purpose of the five-day maritime drill is to “maintain maritime security, focus on prevention and pre-empt wrongdoing in the sea”, said a U.S. embassy statement. The drills will primarily take place off the coast of Vietnam’s southernmost Ca Mau Province, where the U.S. Navy will dispatch “suspicious boats” in a mock exercise to help ASEAN’s navies to “search, verify and legally prosecute” the boats.Speech

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