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Indonesia, US stage joint military drills

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo, taken on August 4, 2021 and released by the Indonesia Army, shows Major General Heri Wiranto (L) meeting with US Captain David Moats at the Mulawarman headquarters in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, to kick off the Garuda Shield military exercise.(Via AFP)

Indonesia and the United States are conducting two weeks of joint drills in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi.

The Indonesian military said on Wednesday that the military exercise was to last until August 14.

Referring to the maneuvers by the name, Indonesia’s army chief of staff Andika Perkasa said, “Hopefully, Garuda Shield will create future leaders of the Indonesian army who are both professional and up to international standards.”

More than 2,100 Indonesian military personnel and some 1,500 from the US army are involved in the drills, which include field training, live fire, aviation and medical exercises.

The American soldiers landed in coronavirus-wracked Indonesia in late July.

Washington has been strengthening its presence in the Asia-Pacific region as tensions heat up with China.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Washington on Tuesday.

A State Department statement on the meeting said the two sides “expressed shared views on maritime security” and committed to “defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and continuing collaboration in cybersecurity and preventing cybercrime.”

The talks came ahead of Blinken’s scheduled participation in a virtual meeting with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Despite security ties with the United States, Indonesia has shown willingness to maintain a balance in its relations between the US and China, a key economic partner.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin recently claimed Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea had “no basis in international law.”

China claims swathes of the South China Sea and has established military outposts on artificial islands in the waters that contain natural resources.

The US Navy regularly conducts “freedom of navigation” operations in which vessels pass close by some of the contested islands.

Washington has been working to rally partners against China’s growing influence in the region.

On Monday, Germany also sent a warship to the South China Sea for the first time in almost two decades, joining other Western countries in expanding its military presence there.

China says movements led by the United States in the region will not help promote peace or stability.

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