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Multi-national military exercise launched in Panama Canal

(Xinhua)

13:42, August 17, 2011

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- A multi-national military exercise was launched Tuesday to test plans to defend the Panama Canal, one of the world's most strategic and economically crucial waterways for global trade, U.S. military officials said.

Some 3,500 military and civilian personnel from 17 countries are participating in the 12-day exercise dubbed PANAMAX 2011, said U.S. Southern Command officials.

The military drill, co-sponsored by Southcom and the Panamanian government, will take place off the coasts of Panama, Texas, Florida and Mississippi.

"We hope the Panama Canal will never have to be defended from a serious threat," said Southcom spokesman Jose Ruiz, adding "but capacity is a very important part of being able to respond to emerging threats."

This year's exercise focuses on building the inter-operability and capacity that would be necessary to defend the canal in the event of a threat, Ruiz said.

The first edition of PANAMAX was staged in 2002 with the participation of Chile, the United States and Panama. Since then more countries have joined.

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