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China to take part in Cobra Gold exercise for first time
Publication Date : 11-02-2014
China, embroiled in territorial disputes with various Asian countries, will for the first time this week take part in Cobra Gold, Asia's biggest military exercise involving 8,000 troops from the United States and six other countries in the region.
Beijing will send 17 soldiers to help build a temple school in northern Thailand in the humanitarian and civic portion of the annual war games led by the US and Thailand.
The primary participants in the exercise, which starts on Tuesday and ends on February 21, are the US, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. Several other countries like Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam will send observers.
China was an observer last year, but requested for increased participation this year, said First Lieutenant Clay Groover, a spokesman for the exercise.
The Asian power is growing increasingly assertive of its regional might, and last year raised tensions by declaring an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea, which contains the Senkaku or Diaoyutai islands claimed by both Japan and China.
It has so far not declared the same zone over the South China Sea, where it claims ownership over a huge swathe of islands also contested by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
Still, the southern Chinese province of Hainan enacted new rules in January requiring foreign fishing boats to seek permission before entering its waters, which include the disputed areas.
Philippine president Benigno Aquino likened China to Nazi Germany last week, prompting China's state news agency Xinhua to call him a "disgrace".