Jakarta [Indonesia], August 3 (ANI): Amid growing China concerns in the Indo-Pacific, Indonesia and the United States along with other countries have begun joint combat exercises on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, signalling stronger ties amid growing maritime activity by China in the region.
More than 5,000 soldiers from Indonesia are taking part in the drill which usually takes place annually, but this year's are the largest ever amid rising tensions with China in the region, Al Jazeera reported.
The annual military training, known as Garuda Shield has been taking place since 2009 but this year it marks the participation of several other countries, including Australia and Japan, making it the largest ever.
The joint military exercises began on Wednesday, and are designed to strengthen interoperability, capability, trust and cooperation in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific, the US embassy in Jakarta said in a statement, reported Al Jazeera.
"It's a symbol of the US-Indonesia bond and the growing relationship between land forces in this consequential region," Charles Flynn, commanding general of US Army Pacific, said in the statement. "Because land forces are the glue that binds the region's security architecture together."The joint drills were opened by Flynn and Indonesia's military chief General Andika Perkasa with a ceremony on Wednesday morning in Baturaja, a coastal town in South Sumatra province.
The exercises, encompassing army, navy, air force and marine drills, will last until August 14, according to Al Jazeera.
While Indonesia and China enjoy generally positive ties, Jakarta has expressed concern about Chinese involvement in its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.
The US-Indonesia military exercises coincided with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's arrival in Taiwan late on Tuesday, as the highest-ranking American official in 25 years to visit the self-ruled island.
During Pelosi's controversial visit to Taiwan, hashtags related to Pelosi's visit, such as "the resolve to realise national reunification is rock solid", went viral on China's Weibo microblogging platform.
Pelosi's trip to Taiwan came to an end on Wednesday as she departed from the self-ruled island after a short and gripping trip which raised tensions in the Taiwan Strait. (ANI)