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International relations

Southeast Asia's defense cuts create opening for China

ASEAN's focus on pandemic fight risks sowing discord with US

China is planning massive military exercises as early as this summer.   © Kyodo

JAKARTA/BEIJING -- Southeast Asian nations have cut their defense budgets to fund efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, leaving them with fewer resources to respond to China's increasingly aggressive territorial claims in the region.

Indonesia, home to 40% of the population of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has decided to lower its 2020 defense budget by 7% from the initial 131 trillion rupiah ($9.2 billion), earmarking the funds for anti-coronavirus efforts instead.

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