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US increases military assistance to Southeast Asia

The US government has outlined a commitment to increase financial assistance to countries in Southeast Asia to support regional defence and security capability development.

The intention reflects Washington's growing effort to counter China's assertiveness in Southeast Asia and is also being channelled through increased diplomatic ties: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin visited the region in late July, and Vice President Kamala Harris will do the same later this month.

To support military capability development, the United States has requested for 2022 Foreign Military Financing (FMF) of USD129 million for Southeast Asian countries. In 2021 requested FMF for the region was nearly USD86 million, and in 2019 and 2020 the actual FMF for the region was USD101 million for each year.

FMF funding for 2022 will include USD40 million for the Philippines, USD14 million for Indonesia, and USD12 million for Vietnam. A total of USD50 million of FMF will also be allocated to a State East Asia and Pacific Regional fund that will allocate investment towards supporting regional security priorities.

In addition, a spokesperson from the US Department of State told Janes that the US will provide regional countries with USD28 million for FMF through the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative. This funding will be made available to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam, pending Congressional notification.

The spokesperson said additional funding for regional countries will be made available through the Pacific Island Regional Fund initiative and through a demining initiative.

The Department of State's Congressional Budget Justification for 2022 also includes for Southeast Asian countries nearly USD14 million for International Military Education and Training (IMET). This also represents increases compared with requested and actual IMET funding for regional countries in recent years.

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