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As China's diplomatic relations with ASEAN nations have been improving, China held the largest joint maritime rescue exercise and naval drills with six other ASEAN nations at Guandong Province.

Asian media described that the joint maritime exercise is a manifestation that the brewing tensions in the South China Sea have mellowed down despite persistent reports of the growing presence of Chinese vessels in the disputed South China Sea.

The ASEAN nations that participated in the joint maritime exercise were Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Brunei and Thailand. The maritime exercise involved 20 ships and 1,000 maritime rescuers that involved simulation exercises in the China seashores.

Analysts believe that this could be one way China is trying to reach out to ASEAN nations as Asia's new big brother.

But prior to the exercise, China has been reiterating that the South China Sea dispute should be resolved bilaterally and should not be meddled with by outsiders. Thus, China's policy has evolved to facilitate maritime collaboration, moving away from confrontation.

China and the US have been at odds when China manifested a series of protests against the US government for deploying military ships in the South China Sea. The US government insisted that there is no such thing as freedom of navigation which the global community is observing.

The US government has also criticized China for initiating reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

The largest China-ASEAN maritime exercise was held at the height of preparation for the 31st ASEAN Summit to be held in Manila on November 16-17, where leaders and ministers of the 10-member countries are expected to convene.

China and the ASEAN community earlier discussed the establishment of the Code of Conduct Framework for the South China Sea but the framework needs more refinement to get the consensus of the ASEAN countries.

While some ASEAN countries like the Philippines have softened their stance against China on the South China Sea dispute, Vietnam remains to be one of the ASEAN countries that have been vocal against China's growing military presence in the South China Sea.