China to join Indonesia’s multilateral naval drills despite rising tension

May 31, 2023 - 6:16 PM
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A helicopter takes off from China's Shandong aircraft carrier, over Pacific Ocean waters, south of Okinawa prefecture, Japan, in this handout photo taken April 15, 2023 and released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan April 17, 2023. (Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/Handout via Reuters)

 China will send warships to a multilateral naval exercise hosted this month by Indonesia, which has also invited countries such as North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the United States, amid rising tension in the Asia-Pacific region.

The drills come as China and the United States ramp up military diplomacy in the region, staging more frequent war games with allies and partners around Taiwan, the busy waterway of the South China Sea, and the west Pacific.

China’s navy will send its destroyer Zhanjiang and frigate Xuchang, both equipped with guided missiles, to the 2023 Multilateral Naval Exercise Komodo (MNEK), the defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Last December, Indonesia said it had invited the navies of 47 nations, including China, to participate in the exercise, which will run from June 4 to 8 in Makassar. It will be the fourth such drill since the first in 2014.

The last Komodo exercise took place in 2018 before suspensions over COVID-19. China also sent two warships at the time, the destroyer Changsha and the frigate Liuzhou, both also equipped with guided missiles.

Last week, the Chinese military said it plans a joint drill, Exercise Amana Youyi-2023, with some countries of the ASEAN regional grouping, including Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The United States, Japan and the Philippines are holding a three-way maritime exercise in the South China Sea this week.

China and the United States have accused each other of military maneuvers, from China’s military drills around Taiwan, which it regards as a province, to new U.S. bases in the Philippines, that fuel tension and threaten peace in the region.

—Reporting by Albee Zhang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez