Last week, Vietnam hosted a meeting aimed at planning for the second iteration of an ASEAN multilateral navy exercise first held in 2017. The exercise, set to be held in 2020, spotlighted the ongoing defense-related interactions that Hanoi is planning for when it holds the ASEAN chairmanship in 2020.
As I have noted previously in these pages, one of the notable recent developments that occurred within the realm of ASEAN defense interactions was the first ever ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercise (AMNEX) in November 2017 – the first such multilateral naval exercise conducted by Southeast Asian states among themselves. The first AMNEX occurred amid a series of other interactions, including the International Fleet Review and the ASEAN Navy Chief’s Meeting, in Thailand amid broader commemorations tied to ASEAN’s 50th anniversary.
The first AMNEX occurred along familiar lines similar to other exercises of its ilk, with components such as a harbor phase, a sea phase, and a post exercise de-briefing. It occurred on and around Sattahip Naval Base in the northern part of the Gulf of Thailand, and standard operating procedures had been approved in previous meetings among Southeast Asian states. AMNEX’s objectives were presented as being multifaceted, including strengthening interoperability, readiness, and knowledge and understanding between Southeast Asian countries.
Since then, indications have been that the next iteration of AMNEX will be held during Vietnam’s chairmanship of ASEAN, set to occur in 2020 following Thailand’s chairmanship in 2019. The holding of the exercise, expected in May 2020, will be among the key defense-related developments expected to occur during Hanoi’s chairmanship that year.
On December 20, we saw some early indications of planning for AMNEX-2 with the holding of a meeting to draft out initial planning in Nha Trang city in Khanh Hoa province. The meeting saw the presence of various Vietnamese organizations, including the defense ministry and the Vietnam People’s Navy, as well as representatives from other ASEAN countries.
According to Vietnam’s defense ministry, the meeting saw the disclosure of the draft agenda of the second AMNEX and plans for related events, as well as recommendations from other countries on the plans as well as Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship more generally. In addition, on the sidelines of the engagement, delegations visited several defense facilities including the Vietnamese Naval Academy and Cam Ranh International Port.
Unsurprisingly, few specifics were publicly disclosed about the second iteration of AMNEX given the initial stages of the planning as well as the work that remains to be done to firm up specifics. Nonetheless, as we move closer to Vietnam’s chairmanship, it will be interesting to watch how the planning plays out as well as how the actual engagement compares to the previous iteration as well.