Asean and the fine art of balancing ties with China and US

New: Gift this subscriber-only story to your friends and family

The first Asean-United States Maritime Exercise held earlier this month was neither politically sensitive nor technically sophisticated. Conducted in undisputed international waters in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, it saw the US Navy deploy "suspicious boats" in a mock exercise to help its Asean counterparts search, verify, and seize the vessels.

The real significance of the exercise lies in the effort to balance two previous joint maritime exercises Asean had with China last October and in April this year. In the April exercise, Asean insisted on using the term "South-east Asian countries" instead of "Asean" to signal that Asean had only one exercise with China before conducting a similar exercise with the US.

Already a subscriber? 

Read the full story and more at $9.90/month

Get exclusive reports and insights with more than 500 subscriber-only articles every month

Unlock these benefits

  • All subscriber-only content on ST app and

  • Easy access any time via ST app on 1 mobile device

  • E-paper with 2-week archive so you won't miss out on content that matters to you

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2019, with the headline Asean and the fine art of balancing ties with China and US. Subscribe