Australia, Britain, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore signaled the growing importance of Asian maritime security on Thursday, starting their annual war-games with a strong focus on naval exercises.Be prepared.
Twenty-six naval ships, one of the biggest fleets assembled in the 34-year-old joint exercise, gathered in the South China Sea, off Malaysia and Singapore, for drills increasingly designed to tackle terrorism rather than wage conventional war.
"Terrorism can occur anywhere. The threat here in this region is probably no greater and no less than in other areas," New Zealand Air Commodore R.J. Newlands said at the launch.
But the strength of the naval contingent reflects growing concerns in Southeast Asia on maritime security, military officials said, with the Malacca Strait, carrying a quarter of world trade, dogged by piracy and fears of a terror attack.
The exercise, which runs until September 28, is part of an upgrading of a Five Powers Defense Arrangements (FPDA) pact.
The accord was established in 1971, primarily to protect Malaysia and Singapore, formerly British colonies, from invasion. Its focus has recently been widened from traditional warfare to include counter-terror operations.
The exercise will also include 74 military aircraft, one submarine and 3,000 soldiers, and will cover Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and the South China Sea, the military officials said.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Reported here, a large series of war games off Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, with countering maritime terrorism as a main theme: