Southeast Asian navies to hold drills with China next week

ASEAN defense ministers attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations security summit in Singapore. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2018
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Southeast Asian navies to hold drills with China next week

  • The planned exercises would ‘enhance friendship and confidence between ASEAN member states’ navies and the People’s Liberation Army Navy and the US Navy’

SINGAPORE: Southeast Asian navies are heading to their first joint exercises with China in its southern waters next week, and defense officials agreed Friday to conduct a similar drill with the US next year.
Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said the drills next week in waters surrounding Zhanjiang will build trust and confidence among the navies participating.
The defense ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations said in a joint declaration their planned exercises in 2019 would “enhance friendship and confidence between ASEAN member states’ navies and the People’s Liberation Army Navy and the US Navy.”
The officials said at a news conference that the location and extent of the second exercise had not been decided.
ASEAN defense ministers are in Singapore with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Wei Feng, for an Asian security conference this weekend.
Mattis said he remains keen for a “constructive relationship” with China but expressed concern about its military activities in the disputed South China Sea.
By working with ASEAN and other partners, the US affirms that “no single nation can rewrite the international rules of the road,” he added.
The exercises with China’s navy next week will include operations like maritime safety, medical evacuation, and search and rescue procedures.
Asked if it holding the exercise in the South China Sea was contentious, Ng said all countries had the right of navigation and military activities consistent with international law.
China and other Asian governments have rival claims to parts of the South China Sea. Chinese military activity in the disputed areas is viewed by Washington as irresponsible while Beijing complains of an inappropriate US military presence.
“Having an exercise with one but not the other could be misinterpreted as being partial. As such, the optics are vital,” said Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University.
“It’s the attempt at ensuring that both countries and their militaries are engaged with the region. It’s another but important manifestation of the balance of powers approach at work,” he added.


Trump briefed on missile strike in Saudi Arabia: White House

Updated 4 min 7 sec ago
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Trump briefed on missile strike in Saudi Arabia: White House

  • White House official said they are closely monitoring the situation
  • Houthi militants said they attacked a power station in Saudi Jizan province

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has been briefed about a missile strike on Saudi Arabia, the White House said Thursday, after Houthi militia claimed an attack on a power station in the kingdom’s south.
“The president has been briefed on the reports of a missile strike in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies.”
There was no immediate confirmation of the attack from Saudi authorities.
Late Wednesday, Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi militants said they struck a power station in southern Jizan province, according to the group’s Al-Masirah TV.
Earlier on Wednesday, a Saudi-led military coalition fighting the militia said a Houthi drone was intercepted over Yemeni airspace.
Last week, a Houthi missile attack on the international airport in southern Abha city left 26 civilians wounded, drawing promises of “stern action” from the coalition.
Human Rights Watch denounced last week’s strike as an apparent “war crime,” urging the Houthis to immediately stop all attacks on civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
The attacks come amid heightened regional tensions with Iran, which Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused of arming the militia with sophisticated weapons. Tehran denies the charge.
Following recent Houthi attacks, Saudi state media has reported the coalition was intensifying its air raids on the militia’s positions in the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah and the Houthi-held capital Sanaa.
The coalition intervened in support of the Yemeni government in 2015 when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into Saudi exile as the militants closed in on his last remaining territory in and around second city Aden.
The conflict has triggered what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 24 million Yemenis — more than two-thirds of the population — in need of aid.