Australia and China participate in ASEAN maritime exercise ahead of South China Sea ruling

Australia and China have joined 16 other ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) nations participating in an ASEAN-hosted exercise.

The regional maritime security and counter-terrorism exercise is being held in Brunei and Singapore from May 2 – 12, 2016.

Minister for Defence, Senator Marise Payne said Australian Special Forces; Navy ships HMAS Anzac and HMAS Bathurst; and headquarters staff will rehearse their responses to a maritime terrorism scenario during the exercise.

The Chinese PLA Navy is participating in the exercise with the missile destroyer Lanzhou from the PLA’s South Sea Fleet, China Daily reported.

Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Australia recently agreed to step up maritime cooperation in the South China Sea after China announced plans to build an outpost in the Scarborough Shoal.

China’s construction of artificial islands in disputed areas of the South China Sea has heightened tensions in the region. By participating in the exercise Beijing hopes to broaden cooperation and understanding with other ASEAN countries ahead of an international court ruling regarding Chinese territorial claims.

The Philippines is awaiting the ruling that challenges Chinese claims to almost all of the South China Sea. While the ruling is expected to be made within weeks, China has clearly stated it would neither accept the decision nor take part in the process in any way.