Author Topic: U.S., ASEAN navies to drill in hopes of improving surveillance capacity  (Read 1739 times)

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U.S., ASEAN navies to drill in hopes of improving surveillance capacity

HONOLULU, Oct. 1 (PNA/Kyodo) -- The United States Pacific Command will conduct a joint exercise with the navies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to assist the 10-member group in strengthening its surveillance capabilities, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday.

Carter unveiled the plan during a meeting with ASEAN defense ministers in Hawaii as China continues unilateral construction and militarization of island outposts in the disputed South China Sea.

It was the first gathering of the U.S. and ASEAN defense ministers since an arbitration ruling in July that invalidated China's claims to almost the whole of the South China Sea.

The Pentagon chief and his ASEAN counterparts agreed to step up information sharing and to hold talks next year on maritime security involving the U.S. Navy and coast guard authorities, as well as ASEAN.

In an effort to deepen U.S. engagement in Southeast Asia, Washington will in 2017 invite ASEAN defense ministers to a U.S. military base in Florida for talks to beef up surveillance activities by ASEAN.

Four ASEAN member states -- Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei -- have competing claims with China over parts of the South China Sea, a vital shipping lane and an area of rich fishing grounds with potentially large oil and natural gas deposits.

Speaking at the meeting, Carter said the United States will further assist the countries in their efforts to safeguard the waters and ensure they are open to all.

Carter said the U.S. government will continue and even expand President Barack Obama's policy of strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

Given China's territorial claims in the South and East China seas, Carter said it is necessary to jointly work with ASEAN to cope with pressing maritime security issues and to ensure security in the region.

Among other issues, Carter and ASEAN defense chiefs affirmed increased cooperation in antiterrorism measures amid growing concern that Islamic State-linked fighters may carry out terrorist attacks in ASEAN member states.

The ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (PNA/Kyodo)