BANGKOK – The United States and the ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) begin their first joint military exercises in history in the Gulf of Thailand.
ASEAN comprises the countries of Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The US Navy sent for the maneuvers that will last until September 7, two warships, four helicopters and two reconnaissance planes.
For their part, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam each provided a ship, while the rest of the countries refrained from sending their vessels to war games.
At the opening ceremony of the exercises the representatives of the 11 countries will meet at the Thai naval base of Chonburi.
The objective of naval military maneuvers is to maintain maritime safety.
China carried out its first military exercises with the ten ASEAN countries in October 2018.
Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Bangkok said Washington does not want the countries of ASEAN to choose between the United States and China.
He claimed with a straight face that US diplomacy with ASEAN has always been based on desire for association and respect for the sovereignty of each country.
The protection of the interests of the member countries against the commercial war between the two largest economic powers in the world was one of the main themes of the meeting that Pompeo had attended in Bangkok with foreign ministers of the region.
Despite Pompeo’s claims, Mikhail Belayev, a professor at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, points out that the string of US trade restrictions to China “pushes” other countries to consolidate a mutual union, join common efforts and work on multilateral agreements that regulate and consolidate their cooperation.
In ASEAN “the perception grows that US actions are not limited to trade friction with China: that if they do this to China, they can do the same with others. It is quite difficult for Americans to compete with China , but it’s much easier to pressure ASEAN countries. Especially if they’re going to face that American pressure alone,” Belayev explains.
That is why it is essential, he explains, that the countries of the organization reach an agreement as soon as possible.