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The United States began military exercises in Indonesia amid tensions with China

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Thousands of Indonesian, US and allied troops staged a live-fire exercise on Friday as part of annual military drills amid what a senior US military official called “destabilizing actions” by Beijing around Taiwan.

A week after unprecedented Chinese maneuvers, Washington’s allies plunged into the Pacific. Thousands of Indonesian, US and allied troops carried out live-fire exercises on Friday as part of annual military exercises, according to a senior US military official. The United States said the joint military exercise, which began on Monday (Aug 1) and was dubbed “Super Garuda Shield”, was not directed at any one nation.

However, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, on Friday raised the specter of a conflict in the Taiwan Strait after China held its largest-ever military exercises around the island. “The destabilizing actions of the People’s Republic of China applied to the activities and threatening actions against Taiwan are exactly what we try to avoid,” Admiral John Aquilino said at a press conference after the exercise.

The United States and its Asian allies are concerned about China’s growing weight in the Pacific.

Beijing last week launched unprecedented warfare around Taiwan, which it claims as part of its territory, in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing democracy.

China’s week-long air and sea drills have raised tensions in the region to their highest level in years. “Every day we try to avoid war,” Admiral Aquilino said.

At least 4,000 soldiers in long-planned exercises

However, the head of the Indonesian army, Andika Perkasa, stressed that the annual exercises, scheduled until August 14, had been planned long before the growing tension in the Strait.

The exercises take place on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and in the Riau Islands, a province of the country made up of scattered islets near Singapore and Malaysia.

In this edition of the “Super Garuda Shield,” at least 4,000 US and Indonesian soldiers joined forces from Australia and Singapore, as well as Japan, which is taking part in the exercise for the first time.

Joint military forces fired ‘Javelin’ anti-tank missiles as Apache helicopters maneuvered, firing machine-gun and rocket salvos at a hilly training area.

On Friday, only Australian and Singaporean forces joined US and Indonesian troops. Canada, France, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Great Britain participate as observer countries.

*With AFP; adapted from its original French version

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