The first-ever joint military exercise of Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has concluded, the Indonesian navy confirmed on Saturday.
The three-day exercise kicked off in Indonesia’s territorial waters on Dec. 1 off the coast of North Sumatra, a province between the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean, and was aimed at increasing interoperability between the ASEAN member states and the Russian navy in the strategic maritime area.
“Those exercises are about peace, stability, and prosperity in the region,” Russian Ambassador to ASEAN Alexander Ivanov and Russian Ambassador to Indonesia Lyudmila Vorobyeva, who attended the event, said, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported.
“We are opening a new page in our strategic partnership,” he said.
The two-staged military drill involved Russia’s large anti-submarine warfare ship, Admiral Panteleyev, representing the Kremlin. Besides Russia and Indonesia, the maneuvers also included warships and aircraft from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Brunei.
ASEAN is a 10-member regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation among its members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“It is important for us to ensure the balance of power in our region, to reiterate that this is a non-aligned region,” Indonesian military analyst, Connie Rahakundini Bakrie, told news agency AFP.
The military exercise comes amid the region facing rising tensions with China.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin urged China last month to “back off” after three Chinese coast guard vessels blocked and used a water cannon on resupply boats headed toward a Philippine-occupied atoll in the South China Sea.
China claims the territory falls within its “nine-dash line,” a boundary including almost all the South China Sea that a tribunal at the Hague in 2016 found lacked legal basis.
Reuters contributed to this report.