Trilateral military exercises honing skills, strengthening bonds
Updated 22:08, 28-Oct-2018
By Rian Maelzer
Two armored vehicles escorting a car and carrying a VIP passenger came under attack. 
Soldiers leaped out and returned fire while their colleagues hustled the VIP to the safety of another vehicle before speeding off.
Thankfully, this was just a demonstration by China's People's Liberation Army for a group of real VIPs looking on, senior military officials from host country Malaysia, China and Thailand. The three countries are taking part in the Aman Youyi military exercises, "Peace" in the Malay language and "Friendship" in Chinese.
Close to 700 military personnel from China, 600 from Malaysia and 54 from Thailand participated.
China has also sent a frigate and a destroyer to take part in bilateral naval exercises with Malaysia in the Melaka Strait later in the week.
Tabletop exercises simulate a security and humanitarian emergency on a fictitious island in the Melaka Strait. /CGTN Photo

Tabletop exercises simulate a security and humanitarian emergency on a fictitious island in the Melaka Strait. /CGTN Photo

At the official opening ceremony, Malaysia's joint forces chief expressed his hopes for the exercises.
"It will provide a good opportunity for all of us to exchange ideas and experiences so that we would be able to plan and conduct future exercises for the betterment of our nations' defense forces in operations such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, maritime security and counter-terrorism," Vice-Admiral Syed Zahiruddin Syed Osman said.
It wasn't certain these exercises would go ahead after Malaysia's change of government in May, one military official told CGTN.
Under the previous government of Prime Minister Najib Razak, strategic and military cooperation between Malaysia and China reached new heights. The two countries held major disaster relief exercises in 2014 and their first-ever bilateral military exercises the following year.
Now there's a new prime minister at the helm in Mahathir Mohamad so it's understandable that there would be questions about the direction the strategic relationship would take. 
But during his previous incarnation as prime minister, Mahathir walked a firmly non-aligned path, aiming to stay on good terms with all the major powers, and that seems set to continue.
Malaysia also conducted regular military exercises with Western countries and has close, if not very highly publicized, military cooperation with the US too.
Troops demonstrated hand-to-hand combat. /CGTN Photo

Troops demonstrated hand-to-hand combat. /CGTN Photo

"Let's join hands to raise trilateral military cooperation to a new level and contribute to a deepening of the comprehensive strategic partnership," said Lieutenant General Ma Yiming, Deputy Chief of China's joint staff Central Military Commission.
While China demonstrated its expertise in VIP escorts and extraction, Malaysian forces shared their in-depth skills in jungle survival techniques including how to quickly build animal traps, start fires and build shelters.
The three countries also put on demonstrations of their sharpshooting abilities, with China's snipers in heavy physical camouflage that made them look like human foliage.
The countries' forces have also been showing each other their respective martial arts, and hand-to-hand combat techniques as well as taking part in small arms drills.
At the training center in the coastal town of Port Dickson, extensive table-top exercises are also taking place. The three countries are simulating having to deal with a humanitarian and security crisis due to political and economic upheaval in a fictitious island in the Melaka Strait.
"In the coming days as the exercise proceeds, I believe that all the participating troops will do their job well with great enthusiasm, excellent professional skills, and close coordination and collaboration," said China's Lt. Gen. Ma.
And that's the ultimate goal of exercises like these: not just to build skills, but to build linkages and bonds between the respective military forces to better team up when faced with real-life peacekeeping, humanitarian or disaster relief missions.