Beijing’s expansive claims to the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea, have long been a source of friction with rival claimants in Southeast Asia, as well as Washington which has traditionally been the dominant naval power in the area. Despite disagreements over Beijing’s territorial ambitions, China and Southeast Asia are trying to strike a more conciliatory tone in an effort to stop tensions from spiralling dangerously out of control. As part of this, the navies of China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are set to hold their first joint drills, which will take place in the South China Sea. “As we speak, the navies of ASEAN are en route to Zhanjiang in China for the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise,” Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said. Making the announcement at a gathering of ASEAN defense ministers in Singapore, also attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Chinese counterpart, Ng said the drills would help to “build trust, confidence.” The city of Zhanjiang in southern China is home to the South Sea Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army. Tabletop exercises between ASEAN and China were held in Singapore in August to prepare for next… Read full this story
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