Joint military exercise starts off Australian northern waters6 April 2006
A three-day multinational military exercise, Pacific Protector 06, started in waters off Darwin, capital of Australia's Northern Territory, Thursday.
The exercise is part of the U.S.-initiated and led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a program that has nations working together to intercept boats that could be shipping weapons of mass destruction.
Six countries are participating in the exercise and 26 countries have sent delegates or observers, according to Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson.
Nelson said the exercise is the first PSI air interdiction exercise to be held in the Asia Pacific region.
"Australia is a strong supporter of the PSI because it is a practical and effective response to the emerging challenges faced by this region and by the world," he said in a statement Thursday.
"Exercise Pacific Protector is designed to test Australia's procedures to contain and manage a proliferation incident, improve interoperability with our partners." he said.
Indonesia has declined an Australian government invitation to take up observer status at the exercise, Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio reported.
The decision came amidst tense relations between the two countries over Australia's decision to grant visas to a group of asylum seekers from Indonesia's province of Papua, in which separatist movement has been active.
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