/ July 11, 2021
Ground was broken recently on a joint U.S.-Indonesian maritime training center in Batam, Indonesia, the Pentagon said.
The center is seen as the latest step by the U.S. to prevent a complete Chinese military takeover of the South China Sea.
U.S. State Department officials said Indonesia has joined other regional states in privately voicing growing fears of Chinese military hegemony.
China has reclaimed more than 3,200 acres of disputed islands in the South China Sea and in 2018 began deploying anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles on the islands.
Construction for the Batam center began on June 25 on an island at the mouth of the strategic Malacca Strait across from Singapore, where U.S. warships frequently dock at the Changi Naval Base.
The strait is a 580-mile-wide waterway between Malaysia’s Malay Peninsula and Indonesia’s island of Sumatra. As the main shipping channel between the Indian and Pacific oceans, the narrow strait is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world.
Described by officials as a counter-narcotics and transnational crime-fighting center, the Batam facility will nonetheless have important regional implications for the Pentagon in countering China‘s attempt to rule the South China Sea, security correspondent Bill Gertz noted in a report for the Washinton Times.
The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said the $3.5 million project is being carried out by the Indonesia Maritime Security Agency, known as Bakamia, and a component of the Indo-Pacific Command, along with U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, the U.S. Coast Guard and the embassy’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) office.
“This training center will be an important foundation for Bakamla to improve our personnel capabilities in responding to the challenges of ensuring security and safety at sea,” Indonesian Rear Adm. Tatit Eko Witjaksono said during the groundbreaking ceremony.
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