US and Indonesia begin construction of maritime training center – The Diplomat

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Indonesia and the United States on Friday inaugurated a new $ 3.5 million maritime training center on Batam Island, at the southern entrance to the strategic and congested Strait of Malacca.

Virtually attending the ceremony, Sung Kim, the United States’ ambassador to Indonesia, said the new center, which will house classrooms, barracks and a helicopter launch pad, will help push the efforts forward. of the two countries to strengthen security in the region, according to a statement by the Indonesian Maritime Safety Agency (Bakamla).

“As a friend and partner of Indonesia, the United States remains committed to supporting Indonesia’s important role in maintaining regional peace and security by combating national and transnational crimes,” said Kim said, according to Bakamla’s statement.

The new center will be well located. Batam is the main island of the Riau Islands, which lie close to Singapore and the southeastern mouth of the Straits of Malacca, a crucial bottleneck for global maritime trade.

In addition to being plagued by piracy, the strait is at the heart of the region’s strategic map, representing a key vulnerability for the Chinese economy, and therefore for its regional and global ambitions. For the past two decades, Chinese strategists have focused on their nation’s heavy reliance on the straits, which Hu Jintao called the “Malacca dilemma” in 2003. China has sought to build a capable naval capability. prevent any hostile power from blocking the important shipping channel.

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This is the strategic rationale for China’s broad and legally dubious claim of China’s “nine-dash line” over much of the South China Sea, which, if successful, would prevent rival naval forces from accessing or to block the straits.

This naval claim, increasingly supported by the deployment of naval and maritime militia ships, has brought China into increasing friction with ocean-facing Southeast Asian countries, cutting off large parts of the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zones of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. More recently, the Philippines protested the presence of hundreds of Chinese fishing boats and maritime militia ships in disputed parts of the Spratly Islands.

Although Jakarta is not an official legal claimant of the South China Sea, some of its waters lie on the wrong side of Beijing’s “nine-dash line” and the two countries have engaged in a series of clashes in the South China Sea. over the past five years. .

The new collaboration with the United States on the Batam training center is just the latest sign of Indonesia’s willingness to strengthen the capacity of its aging navy, which has struggled to patrol the sprawling expanse of territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of the archipelago. It follows a virtual workshop that Bakamla organized with the US Coast Guard focused on maritime security, after the alleged discovery of the Chinese uManaged Underwater Vehicles, or UUVs, in Indonesian waters.

Earlier this month, Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri announced that it had reached an agreement with the Indonesian government to supply it with six new FREMM multipurpose frigates and two used Maestrale-class frigates.

The Italian deal follows Indonesia’s signing of an agreement with Japan authorizing the transfer of Japanese military equipment and technology to the Indonesian armed forces, and the announcement that Indonesia plans to spend 3, $ 6 billion for the purchase of up to eight new Japanese Mogami-class aircraft. stealth frigates.


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