PHITSANULOK – China and Vietnam will for the first time take part as “official observers” in the upcoming 2014 Cobra Gold military exercise involving troops from the US, Thailand and Singapore, an official at the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok said yesterday.
Beijing will dispatch a five-man team led by a colonel, while Hanoi will send four mid-ranking officers, including the military attache from the Vietnamese Embassy in Bangkok, the official said.
Thailand has invited China to observe the annual military exercise, one of the largest in the region, for the past year but Beijing has had “some difficulties” and could not accept the invitation, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. This is “to reinforce our commitment to our bilateral ties with Thailand,” said the officer. He declined to comment when asked if improving ties with the US was also a factor in Beijing’s decision to send observers..
The exercise will cover areas in Phitsanulok, Khon Kaen, Chon Buri, Rayong and Chanthaburi provinces from Feb 11-21.
The primary participants in Cobra Gold 2014 will be about 9,000 troops from the United States and 4,000 from Thailand. Other participants include 80 troops from Singapore, 120 from Japan, 300 from South Korea, 160 from Indonesia and 120 from Malaysia.
China will send 25 troops to offer humanitarian and civic assistance.
Eleven other countries will send observers – Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, China, South Africa, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Russia, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.