JAKARTA — Over 4,000 troops from a dozen countries will join an annual joint military exercise between Indonesia and the United States next month amid simmering tensions in the South China Sea, according to Indonesian officials.
The "Super Garuda Shield" exercise will be held on the main Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan from Aug. 1 to 14, involving such countries as Australia, Japan, South Korea and Britain. Ground drills and beach-landing exercises are being scheduled.
Indonesia will dispatch 2,000 soldiers, and the United States over 1,100 personnel to the exercise that dates back to 2009, Gen. Andika Perkasa, commander of the Indonesian military, told reporters Sunday.
Previous exercises only involved army soldiers. This year, however, Indonesia and the United States decided to involve all branches, including their air forces, the navies and special forces.
"It's to improve our capabilities in dealing with challenges, including the security ones, natural disasters and humanitarian missions," Andika said in his joint press conference with the visiting chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley.
Milley said this year's edition will be "a very, very important and significant exercise, the largest one that we've run to date."
China claims much of the South China Sea and has militarized outposts in areas of the sea that are also contested by neighboring countries, such as the Philippines and Vietnam.
Indonesia regards the southern end of the South China Sea as its territorial waters. China has repeatedly told Indonesia to stop drilling for oil and natural gas there.