By NINIEK KARMINI
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has begun its first joint naval exercise at a time when several member countries are responding more forcefully to growing Chinese assertiveness in the area. The non-combat exercise includes joint maritime patrol operations, search and rescue drills, and humanitarian and disaster relief. ASEAN nations have previously participated in naval exercises with other countries, including the United States and China, but this week’s exercises are the first involving only the bloc and are interpreted by many as a signal to China. China’s “nine-dash line,” which it uses to demarcate its claim to most of the South China Sea, has led to tense clashes with four ASEAN nations.
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