WASHINGTON – U.S. Marines will participate in survival training with Chinese and Australian soldiers this fall, according to officials.
Exercise Kowari is slated to take place in Australia’s Northern Territory in October, and will last about two weeks.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren described it as “small scale” exercise involving fewer than 100 troops from all three countries.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Jeff Pool said the exact number of Marines to take part has yet to be determined, but they will come from a rotational force already in the Northern Territory.
Warren said the size of the Marine training contingent would likely be one or two squads.
“The goal of the exercise is to learn how to survive and thrive in austere conditions,” Warren said.
Pool noted that the Australian Outback offers “limited water, no shelter, cold nights [and] hot days” for troops.
The trilateral exercise is part of a larger DOD effort to enhance cooperation with China’s military at a time when Beijing is flexing its muscles in territorial disputes with American allies and launching cyberattacks against the United States.
For the first time ever, the Chinese navy is currently participating in RIMPAC, a huge multinational maritime exercise that takes place every two years. The Chinese are taking part at the invitation of the U.S.
“The overall goal of all of these [exercise] is to enhance our military to military relationships. So we believe that training with any nation helps,” Warren said. “All of the parties who are being trained work better together … It helps increase understanding” and “it’s good for American national security.”
Exercise Kowari, named after a desert rat native to Australia, was first announced by the Australian defense ministry Thursday following a visit by Gen. Fan Changlong, the vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission.
Pool said the event has been in the works for months, but planning is still ongoing.