Aug 11, 2021: US-led Southeast Asian Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) military exercises are underway in Singapore and online.
Now in its 20th year, the annual exercises began on Tuesday and involve the navies of 21 countries, including; Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, East Timor, the United Kingdom, the US and Vietnam.
In a statement, the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said this year’s exercises involved 10 ships and more than 400 personnel. The exercises are designed to encourage countries to use their navies to “enhance the operational environment, increase the capacity of humanitarian missions, and uphold international law and principles.”
SEACAT exercises are taking place because China and Russia are also conducting joint military exercises in China’s north-central Ningxia region, and the US is preparing for exercises with South Korea, which has increased tensions with Pyongyang.
During the US led SEACAT exercises, an operation post at the International Fusion Center in Singapore will serve as a hub for crisis liaison and information exchange as participating ships track merchant ships that are of “interest in the Southeast Asian seas.” according to the official statement.
The South China Sea, which is claimed by China as well as Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, is one of the busiest waterways in the world and has become a growing center of maritime interest.
“The scenarios are designed to encourage countries to work together even though the maritime domain understands the assets of awareness better and adheres to international norms,” said US. Capt. Tom Ogden, commander of Destroyer Squadron 7. “Our Southeast Asian partners are ready for potential real-world engagements in the future,” he added.
SEACAT began in 2002 as the “Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism”.
The exercises were launched in the wake of the September 2001 attacks in the US and were renamed in 2012 to focus on advancing training between the Regional Navy and the Coast Guard in South and Southeast Asian navies to manage challenges including piracy, theft and smuggling.
Several international and non-governmental organizations are also taking part in the exercises this year alongside the US and south east asian navies.
They include the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), EU Critical Maritime Route Wider Indian Ocean (CRIMARIO), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
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