US and China join naval exercises in Indonesia despite rifts

Arief Budi

Global Courant

JAKARTA – The United States and China have sent warships to the multinational naval exercises that began Monday in Indonesia, despite rifts between the two powers.

Washington and Beijing are engaged in fierce diplomatic, military, technological and economic competition.

The US military has stepped up its operations in Asia and the Pacific to counter an increasingly assertive China, which has recently staged several war exercises around Taiwan.

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But both sent warships Monday through Thursday to the 2023 Multilateral Naval Exercise (MNEK) hosted by Indonesia in the eastern waters of Sulawesi Island.

The US Navy has sent a littoral combat ship to the exercise, a spokesman for the US embassy in Jakarta told AFP on Sunday.

The exercises will enable the US to “work with like-minded nations, our allies and our partners to work toward solving common challenges,” such as humanitarian aid and disaster relief, the spokesman said.

China’s defense ministry said last week it would send a destroyer and a frigate at the invitation of the Indonesian navy.

Australia and Russia were also expected to send warships, according to an Indonesian military list AFP accessed.

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Officials said 17 foreign ships would be involved in the exercises, which will focus on non-military operations with key allies.

“MNEK is a non-war training program that prioritizes maritime cooperation in the region,” Indonesian Navy spokesman I Made Wira Hady said in a statement.

Washington and Beijing have clashed this year over a number of Asia-Pacific issues, including Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province that must be forcibly reunited if necessary.

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They have also been involved in a diplomatic battle over Pacific island nations.

Tensions ran high when an alleged Chinese spy balloon crossed the United States before being shot down.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a defense summit in Singapore last week that the two nations should renew dialogue to avoid “misunderstandings” that could lead to conflict.

Beijing had turned down an invitation for its defense chief to meet Mr Austin on the sidelines of that summit. AFP

US and China join naval exercises in Indonesia despite rifts

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