The joint US-Indonesian military exercises Garuda Shield 2022—hosted in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Riau islands over the past two weeks—will conclude today.
The drills—dubbed “Super Garuda Shield” this year given the inaugural participation of Japanese, Australian and Singaporean contingents—drew 4,000 US and Indonesian troops, with observers from nine other nations. It also comes eight months after diplomatic sparring between Beijing and Jakarta over disputed territorial waters in the South China Sea.
This round of the largely amphibious exercises was the largest since they began in 2007. For the US, the stated aim was the interoperability of forces to protect the ‘rules-based order’ in the region. This is code for the continuance of international maritime law supported by US military heft, which stands in direct opposition to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. China responded to the wargames by calling them a threat to regional stability.
These exercises are unlikely to harm Sino-Indonesian relations in the medium-term as Jakarta will continue to balance Beijing and Washington. However, in the context of growing territorial tensions, the amphibious nature of the exercises points to Jakarta’s increasing uncertainty over whether future Sino-Indonesian territorial disputes can be resolved diplomatically.
John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.