(Bloomberg) -- Indonesia’s top military commander is seeking to step up military cooperation within the region and partners further afield to face down the maritime threat from an increasingly assertive China.

General Andika Perkasa told Nikkei Asia in an interview published Monday that he wanted to forge closer ties with like-minded countries Brunei and Malaysia that have disputes with Beijing over its claim to swathes of the South China Sea. The plan, he said, calls for greater cooperation across the different military branches to better patrol the Natuna Islands.

“I’m not gonna be embarrassed to say this, but our ability to operate patrolling in our EEZ around Natuna” can only last days, he told the news outlet.

Indonesia, which expanded joint exercises with the US this year, unveiled a $125 billion military modernization plan last year and is holding talks over the purchase of dozens of Boeing Co. F-15EX fighter jets.

Here’s more details from the wide-ranging interview: 

  • Joint military drills are important to not only improve relations, but offset Indonesia’s limited defense budget.
  • If the plan with Brunei and Malaysia is realized, it would mark first-ever joint drill involving all service branches among countries disputing with China in the South China Sea, the report said.
  • General says that Indonesia is seeking to include more countries in its annual joint military exercise known as Garuda Shield, and that a US military delegation will be in Jakarta in early December to discuss plans.
  • Building more cooperation with the Quad -- security partnership between India, Australia, Japan and the US -- is “very important.”
  • Read: Biden Gets Key Break as Southeast Asia Bolsters Militaries

(Updates with context in the fourth paragraph. An earlier story corrected the reference to the South China Sea.)

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