BANGKOK – In response to recent speculation about growing Thai-China relations U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies said on Monday that the United States supports Thailand’s relationship with China, countering suggestions that Thailand has turned to Beijing amid a chill in ties between Bangkok and Washington.
Last week, Thailand’s air force joined military exercises with China’s air force at a military base northeast of Bangkok aimed at increasing “mutual trust and friendship”.
China has said it is supportive of Thailand’s military rulers and, since the coup, Thailand’s military generals have sought to counterbalance the country’s ties with Washington and launched a charm offensive towards China.
Recent deals between China and Thailand include an ambitious project to build rail links from southern China to Thailand and plans by the Thai navy to buy submarines worth $1 billion from China.
“I don’t worry about Thailand’s relationship with Beijing. I think it’s a good thing for Thailand to have a relationship with China,” Davies told reporters in Bangkok on Monday.
“We try to have a good relationship with China too.”
Thailand has been one of Washington’s staunchest allies in Southeast Asia but following the coup, Washington downgraded joint military exercises and training with Thailand saying they would be restored once a general election is held.
“The relationship with the United States and Thailand is a very deep, broad relationship,” Davies said. “…It’s across the board. We work together in law enforcement, security, environment, refugees, trafficking, all of these things we work with Thailand and for us its a very beneficial relationship.”
China has rattled nerves in Southeast Asia with its increasingly bold assertion of sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have competing claims.
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre