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The Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations has moved its first-ever joint drills, Indonesia’s navy stated Tuesday, edging them away from waters disputed by China.

The bloc’s joint workouts had been initially slated for the North Natuna Sea, which Indonesia claims as its unique financial zone however the place Beijing’s ships often patrol.

When confronted by Jakarta, China has invoked the so-called nine-dash line, which demarcates an space it claims to have historic rights over however is contested by its neighbors.

China claims many of the South China Sea regardless of protests from Southeast Asian nations, together with Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

The ASEAN’s drills will now happen within the South Natuna Sea between September 18 and 25, Indonesia’s navy stated in a press release, avoiding the contested waters.

ASEAN’s members have held naval drills with america and China earlier than, however they’ve by no means staged navy workouts as a bloc.

The choice got here at a planning convention between rotating ASEAN chair Indonesia and “a number of ASEAN counterparts,” the navy stated, with out disclosing which nations attended or abstained.

China’s main regional ally Cambodia refused to substantiate its attendance on the drills after they had been initially introduced.

The Indonesian navy assertion on Tuesday stated the drills can be attended by navy leaders from all 10 ASEAN nations.

Navy chief Yudo Margono informed reporters earlier this month that the drills would deal with maritime safety and rescue, and wouldn’t contain fight operations.