Evans refused to comment on China’s long-standing opposition to US-led military drills in Asia.
Asked whether there are plans by the US military to carry out joint naval patrols with allies like Japan and the Philippines in or near contested waters, Evans said that “it is important that we maintain a continuous engagement with our regional partners and allies from a military perspective, because, that, again, enhances our overall readiness”.
“I think it continues to show a sign of our commitment to regional partners and allies,” said Evans, who is also Senior Commander of US Army Hawaii.
Combat exercises between US forces and their regional allies and defence partners “remains critically important, as it has been since we began this operation in 2006”, he said in response to a question on the urgency of conducting such exercises now.
US allies recognise the strategic importance and the opportunity to participate in the multinational exercises, which aim to enhance military professionalism aside from bolstering combat readiness and sharpening the ability of allied forces to operate together, Evans said.
“Australia, along with all of our regional partners and allies, continues to contribute to really three things that we focus on during operation pathways, in this case, Garuda Shield,” Evans said, “Those three things are partnerships, the refinement of our overall military readiness and interoperability.”
Meanwhile, Rear-Admiral Julius Widjojono, the spokesperson for the Indonesian military, said the field training exercises aim to boost combat preparedness and hone the battle instincts of soldiers from participant nations, including overcoming enemy assaults while carrying out patrols.
Brunei, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South Korea, and East Timor sent observers to the combined joint multilateral exercise.