China, ASEAN countries hold simulated naval drills

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Commander 185 Squadron, Colonel (COL) Lim Yu Chuan and Deputy Chief of Operations, Naval Forces of People's Liberation Army Southern Theater Command, CAPT Liang Zhijia co-directing the inaugural ASEAN-China Maritime table-top exercise (TTX) at the Multinational Operations and Exercises Centre (MOEC).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 4) — The navies of China and Southeast Asian nations had their first maritime exercises together to ease tensions in disputed waters.

The "table-top" exercises included plans to deal with maritime incidents, Singapore's Defense Ministry said in a statement Friday. The naval drills were held on Thursday and Friday at the RSS Singapura - Changi Naval Base.

"We had fruitful discussions and developed plans that help to enhance understanding and confidence between our navies. We look forward to furthering practical cooperation by exercising these plans during the sea exercise later this year," Colonel Lim Yu Chuan, exercise co-director and commanding officer of Republic of Singapore Navy's 185 Squadron said in a statement.

The naval drills came amid growing tensions in the widely-disputed South China Sea. Four member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines — have overlapping claims with Beijing over islands in the region.

China has deployed missile structures in the waters after asserting its nine-dash line claim, which covers majority of the South China Sea.

Captain Liang Zhijia, deputy chief of operations in the Naval Forces of China's People's Liberation Army, said the exercises are a good platform to build confidence, cooperation and understanding between the country's navies.

"We all have common interest and we should work together. Such practical cooperation will help build trust so that we can work together towards safer seas for all," Liang said.

Earlier, China has proposed to conduct military exercises and energy exploration with ASEAN countries in the South China Sea, planning to exclude the United States.

The U.S. has recently increased patrols in the contested waters to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight there. Trillions of U.S. dollars worth of global trade pass through the area yearly.