Navies from 17 countries began a six-day joint exercise on March 29 in the East Sea to improve coordinated efforts in coping with natural calamities.

The drill, which involved 4,885 navy personnel from 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its seven dialogue partners China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, the Republic of Korea, and the US, is part of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response.

Australia, along with the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Netherlands, Spain and the ASEAN Secretariat, are participating as observers.

The exercise aims to better the organisation of international assistance in future natural disasters, said Djoko Suyanto, coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, at the opening ceremony on Batam island, near Singapore.

It also means to provide more knowledge on disaster mitigation for navy officers in the region as well as harmonise various national, regional, and international methods to cope with the issue, according to Lt.Col. Agus Cahyono, spokesman of the Western Fleet of the Indonesian Navy.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.-VNA