ASEAN military chiefs plan Malacca Strait exercise

ASEAN military chiefs plan Malacca Strait exercise

The defence forces of the 10 members states of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plan to undertake a joint maritime security exercise in the Malacca Straits in 2015.

The initiative would be a first for the bloc, and the announcement comes at a sensitive time as a territorial dispute between China and five member states – Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei – absorbed much of the ASEAN Defence Forces Informal Meeting on 5 March in Naypyidaw.

“We [realise] that while the regional security environment of Southeast Asia remains relatively stable, the complexity of various existing and emerging security threats continue to pose challenges to regional peace and stability,” a statement said at a press conference on Wednesday in the Burmese capital.

“We [recognise] that the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is crucial to maritime security and to a stable security environment in the region.”

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The statement went to pledge ASEAN military cooperation in areas such as natural disasters, climate change and terrorism, and said the member states will continue to work together in training and joint exercises.

No further information was offered into the 2015 exercise in the Malacca Straits, which is a channel separating Malaysia from Indonesia that is one of the world’s main shipping lanes and trade routes.

Addressing Wednesday’s press conference as chairman, Burma’s command-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said the member states were cooperating in maritime security, humanitarian and other non-traditional challenges such as drug smuggling, trans-border crimes and counter-tourism, and regional disaster relief cooperation.

He noted that the Burmese army had, in the past, taken part in UN peacekeeping missions and was looking to recommence that activity again in the future.

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