China and the 10 Asean member states held the first Asean-China Maritime Exercise starting on Thursday at RSS Singapura - Changi Naval Base, with plans to hold a field exercise in China involving navies from all 11 countries in October.
The two-day table-top exercise, which did not involve actual drills, was hosted by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) at the base's Multinational Operations and Exercises Centre. It saw participants cooperate on maritime safety incidents in international waters, such as the collision of merchant ships and an oil tanker catching fire.
During the exercise, naval officers from the 11 countries discussed plans to tackle simulated scenarios, such as search and rescue operations and medical evacuation, for the Asean-China Maritime Field Training Exercise in October to be co-led by Singapore and China.
There are also plans to use the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea in the field exercise, such as for the approach of distressed vessels and helicopter cross-deck landings. The code is meant to manage unexpected encounters at sea, and was adopted by Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus countries in 2017.
Near the conclusion of the table-top exercise yesterday, RSN Colonel Lim Yu Chuan said all 11 countries have indicated they would attend the Asean-China Maritime Field Training Exercise.
Col Lim, who is co-director of the two-day event, said the table-top exercise was a good first step for Asean and China navies to work together to deal with maritime incidents at sea.
At the end of the exercise, we have strengthened our ability to work together, and achieved a greater understanding between the Asean and People's Liberation Army navies.
COLONEL LIM YU CHUAN, of the Republic of Singapore Navy.
"At the end of the exercise, we have strengthened our ability to work together, and achieved a greater understanding between the Asean and People's Liberation Army (PLA) navies," said the commanding officer of 185 Squadron.
Col Lim's counterpart, exercise co-director Liang Zhijia, said: "For China, the exercise is a pragmatic measure to practise President Xi Jinping's principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness in conducting neighbourhood diplomacy, as well as to build a community of shared interests and common destiny with Asean."
Captain Liang is China's deputy chief of operations of the Naval Forces of People's Liberation Army Southern Theatre Command.
The Asean-China Maritime Exercise followed discussions held at the Asean-China Defence Ministers' Informal Meeting in February.
All 10 Asean navy chiefs, as well as senior officials from the PLA, visited the exercise and interacted with the participants.
The Asean navy chiefs will be attending the 12th Asean Navy Chiefs' Meeting in Singapore today.
Captain Yuthanavi Mungthanya, deputy chief of staff of the Royal Thai Navy's Frigate Squadron 2, said of the table-top exercise: "We have learnt how to tackle maritime incidents together as a team effort.
"Together we came up with good plans and procedures to face maritime incidents... such as how to get to the incident area as quickly as possible."