The annual military exercises between Indonesian and US armies will include more than a dozen countries this year, officials said Sunday, as tensions with China continue to spike in the region. The Garuda Shield joint training will see militaries from 14 countries – including Britain, Australia and Japan – participate in ground drills and beach-landing exercises from August 1-14 in Indonesia’s South Sumatra archipelago and the East of Borneo island, the Indonesian Army said. US and Indonesia hold military drill as Washington focuses on Asean ties A US official said thousands of soldiers will participate in the event, which would be “the largest” edition since Garuda Shield was established in 2009, Albert Tambunan, an Indonesian military spokesperson said on Sunday. This year’s expansion of military cooperation signals an increase in defence ties between the US and some Asia-Pacific nations, with tensions flaring in the disputed waters. The region abuts up to the flashpoint South China Sea – a vital waterway that Beijing claims almost in its entirety, and has been a key point of contention between several Southeast Asian nations and China during annual meetings. But Ian Francis, chief of the Office of Defence Cooperation at the US embassy in Jakarta, called the expanded war games a “natural outgrowth of Indonesian military’s continuing capability and their willingness to work more broadly with partners”. “This really demonstrates that the US has a growing security cooperation relationship with Indonesia,” he said. A full list of taking part countries has not yet been released. The announcement comes after a visit to Jakarta last month by Admiral John Aquilino, who leads the Indo-Pacific command – which oversees all US military activities in the region. Indonesia is not officially a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, but the tensions ensnare Southeast Asia’s 10-country regional bloc in annual meetings with Beijing.