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China, Southeast Asia Seek a Safer Disputed Sea with Plan for Joint Exercises
Monday, 12 March 2018 20:40 WIB | GLOBAL |china

Plans for a first-ever joint military exercise by China and Southeast Asian nations this year would calm safety risks on the most heavily contested sea in Asia and could ease fear of Beijing's dominant role in the sovereignty dispute.

At a meeting in February, defense ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) "welcomed" the prospect of a maritime exercise with China by the end of 2018, Singapore's defense ministry said in a statement. Singapore is heading the association this year. The ministers œinformally met Chinese defense minister Chang Wanquan, as well, the statement said.

Beijing claims about 90 percent of the disputed waterway, the South China Sea. In Southeast Asia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also claim swathes of the sea, vying with China™s holdings. Taiwan calls the whole sea its own, as well. China, which has the world™s third most powerful armed forces, has irked the others since 2010 by landfilling islets for military use.

Odds of an exercise this year are high, said Fabrizio Bozzato, a Taiwan Strategy Research Association fellow specializing in East Asia.

"This time China is moving to engage ASEAN at a multilateral and collective level for the sake of winning their trust, soothing fears of China™s overwhelming military supremacy by boosting collective self-confidence and enhancing the role of ASEAN as the preferred interface and dialogue platform," he said.

Source : voanews

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