US and Indonesia hold joint military exercises amid concerns over China

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (UKTN) — The United States and Indonesian armies began annual joint combat exercises on the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Wednesday, joined for the first time by participants from other partner countries, pointing to stronger ties amid China’s growing maritime activity in the Indo-Pacific region.

More than 5,000 soldiers from the US, Indonesia, Australia, Japan and Singapore participated in this year’s exercises, making them the largest since the exercises were instituted in 2009. The exercises are designed to strengthen interoperability, capability, trust and cooperation in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific, the US embassy in Jakarta said in a statement.

“It is a symbol of the bond between the US and Indonesia and the growing relationship between land forces in this important region,” General Charles Flynn, Commanding General of the United States Army Pacific, said in the statement. “Because land forces are the glue that binds the region’s security architecture together.”

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Flynn and Indonesian military chief-general Andika Perkasa opened the joint exercises with a ceremony on Wednesday morning in Baturaja, a coastal town in South Sumatra province. The exercises will last until August 14 and will include exercises by the army, navy, air force and sea.

The planned two-week exercises kicked off after the Chinese Defense Ministry said Tuesday evening it would conduct a series of targeted military operations to “protect national sovereignty” in response to the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. , to annex self-governed Taiwan, which China claims is part of its territory, by force if necessary.

China has also become increasingly assertive about its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.

US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the number of interceptions by Chinese aircraft and ships in the Pacific with US and other partner forces has increased significantly over the past five years, and the number of unsafe interactions has increased. increased by comparable proportions.

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“The message is that the Chinese military, in the air and at sea, has become significantly more aggressive and noticeably more aggressive in this particular region,” Milley said last month during a trip to the Indo-Pacific with a stop in Indonesia.

Milley said Indonesia is of strategic importance to the region and has long been an important partner of the US. Earlier this year, the US approved a $13.9 billion sale of advanced fighter jets to Indonesia. And last December in Jakarta, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken signed agreements for enhanced joint naval exercises between the US and Indonesia.

While Indonesia and China have generally positive ties, Jakarta has expressed concern about China’s encroachment on its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely.

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The military exercises between the US and Indonesia coincided with Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan late Tuesday, as the most senior US official in 25 years to visit the self-ruled island. Beijing sees visits by foreign government officials as recognition of the island’s sovereignty.

Japan’s self-defense force is participating in the exercises for the first time and says it is promoting a “free and open” Indo-Pacific view of security and trade with the US and other democracies in the region.

The extensive exercises are seen by China as a threat. Chinese state media have accused the US of building an Indo-Pacific alliance, similar to NATO, as a means of deliberately provoking conflict.

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