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Sri Lanka, US to conduct joint military exercises to maintain free and open Indo-Pacific

COLOMBO (PTI):  Sri Lanka and the US will conduct a week-long joint military exercises starting Thursday to prepare for disaster relief and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific, amid China's increasing military manoeuvring in the strategic region.

The exercise will commence on January 19, and will end on January 26.

"The US Navy and Marine Corps will commence exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 with the Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka Air Force in Colombo," said a statement issued by the US embassy here on Tuesday.

This is the fifth CARAT/MAREX exercise between the US and Sri Lanka, and this year includes participants from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Maldives National Defence Force.

CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a bilateral exercise between Sri Lanka and the US designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability.

"The US, in our 75th year of bilateral relations with Sri Lanka, is proud to partner with the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Air Force for this training. These yearly exercises are an important opportunity for training to prepare for disaster relief and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific," US Ambassador Julie Chung was quoted as saying.

The US, India and several other world powers have been discussing the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's increasing military manoeuvring in the region.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.

The week-long exercise is designed to enhance US and partner navies' abilities to operate together in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges, the statement added.

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