JAKARTA: Indonesia launched on Monday a multilateral naval exercise attended by more than 30 countries, including US and China, amid rising geopolitical tension.
The Multilateral Naval Exercise Komodo, which was first held in 2014, is on its fourth edition and will run until June 8 in waters off Makassar, South Sulawesi. This year’s Komodo drills will see participation from 36 countries, the Indonesian Navy said in a statement.
“This exercise aims to enhance diplomatic capabilities, international cooperation, strengthen relationships and build cooperation with friendly nations,” Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff Mohammed Ali said during the opening ceremony.
In 2023, participating countries include the US, Australia, China, India, the UK, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and Russia. The last Komodo exercise took place in 2018 before suspensions over COVID-19.
“The participation of representatives from friendly navies demonstrates the importance of this activity in the international agenda that can contribute positively to achieving regional security, stability and peace,” Ali said, adding that at least 17 foreign warships will join the drills.
The exercises also seek to “improve operational readiness and interoperability between the navy and maritime agencies in the region,” Ali said, especially to address “various threats other than military operation.”
He added: “This exercise is also expected to be a forum for the exchange of knowledge and experience among participants to facilitate coordination in dealing with various crisis situations in an integrated manner.”
The Komodo exercises come as China and the US ramp up military diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region, staging more frequent war games with allies and partners around Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea.
China has conducted military exercises with Laos, Singapore and Cambodia this year, while the US launched just last week the first trilateral maritime exercises with Japan and the Philippines.
China-US relations have grown tense as friction between the world’s two largest economies arose from Beijing’s claims over Taiwan and its military activity in the resource-rich South China Sea.