MANILA (Xinhua) – The plan by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to conduct a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea “is very important” to the region, according to Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
“It’s very important that there are joint military exercises as a measure to prevent accidents and to ensure the military-to-military relations between China and Asean continue to grow,” he said.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week in Singapore that China and ASEAN member states will hold a joint naval exercise in October.
The joint naval drill will be held outside contested areas without the participation of the United States and Australia will be held off the coast of Guangdong province in China from October 22 to 28.
The holding of a joint China-ASEAN naval drill, proposed by China, was first brought up in February in Singapore during the informal ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting.
The forthcoming China-led naval drill will focus on “search and rescue operations” and the application of Code of Unplanned Encounter at Sea.
Over the past years, the Chinese Navy has been projecting a blue water capability, sparking concerns that China is gearing for maritime domination not only in the Indo-Pacific region but ultimately across the globe.
But standing in the way of its maritime domination plan are old time powers like the US, Australia and the United Kingdom, among others.
China has been building island fortresses in several areas in the South China Sea being claimed or within the territories of other Asian countries, including the Philippines.
The US Navy has been continuously challenging China’s domineering presence in the South China Sea by conducting regular Freedom of Navigation Operations in the region, despite protests from Beijing.
China is claiming almost 90 per- cent of the South China Sea.
Other countries engaged in maritime dispute with China – aside from the Philippines – are Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Brunei.