JAKARTA, Indonesia: Indonesia and the United States have begun construction of a $3.5 million maritime training centre, in a bid to combat illegal transnational crime, including drug smuggling.

The center is located in the strategic area of Batam in the Riau Islands, Indonesia’s maritime security agency said.

Attending the ceremony virtually on Friday, U.S. ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim said the maritime centre is one of a number of efforts between Indonesia and the United States to strengthen regional security.

“As a friend and partner to Indonesia, the United States remains committed to supporting Indonesia’s important role in maintaining regional peace and security by fighting domestic and transnational crimes,” Kim said.

Located at the meeting point of the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea, the center will be run by Indonesia and houses classrooms, barracks and a helicopter pad, the agency said.

The U.S. collaboration with Indonesia follows a rise in tensions in the South China Sea, with the Philippines having repeatedly objected to hundreds of Chinese vessels anchored off the Spratly islands this May.

Earlier in June, the foreign ministers of Southeast Asia and China agreed to exercise restraint in the South China Sea and avoid actions that could increase tensions.