ASEAN kicks off its first-ever joint military drills in Indonesia

The exercises were originally set to take place in the southernmost waters of the South China Sea, which are also claimed by Beijing.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam rejected China’s map, describing it as baseless. Malaysia also filed a related diplomatic protest.

During the 43rd ASEAN Summit in Jakarta earlier this month, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos said his country did not seek conflict in the South China Sea, but had a duty to “meet any challenge to our sovereignty”.

Earlier this month, the Philippines condemned China’s coast guard for harassing boats resupplying Philippine troops on an uninhabited atoll in the disputed Spratley Islands in the South China Sea.

ASEAN has been discussing a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea for more than twenty years with little progress to date.

The Philippines and some other ASEAN members have grown frustrated over a lack of progress on the code.

Asked about rising geopolitical tensions, Indonesia’s Margono reiterated that the drills this week were non-combat in nature.

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