BANGKOK -Thailand and China have agreed on the joint military exercise and an increase in cooperative defense development, to boost military ties over the next five years, from increasing intelligence sharing to fighting transnational crime, as the ruling junta seeks to counterbalance the country’s alliance with Washington.
This announcement comes after relations between Thailand’s Junta and the Obama Administration deteriorated when the Junta accused Washington of meddling in its political affairs over a speech given by a visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel R. Russel.
Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan told Reuters “China has agreed to help Thailand increase protection of its own country and advise on technology to increase Thailand’s national security.”
“China will not intervene in Thailand’s politics but will give political support and help maintain relationships at all levels. This is China’s policy.”
Under the junta, Thailand has stepped up engagement with China at a time when Beijing increases its influence in Southeast Asia with a raft of loans and aid for infrastructure.
At the same time, Washington has sought to show its renewed commitment to a strategic “pivot” toward Asia by boosting military ties and equipment sales across the region.
Prawit said Thailand and China agreed to increase joint military exercises, but did not give further details.
Despite the tensions, the U.S. will hold its annual Cobra Gold combined military exercise with Thailand next week. The drill, however, has been scaled down in scope to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Cobra Gold is the Asia-Pacific’s largest annual multinational military exercise, in over 30 years, Cobra Gold, which began as a bilateral drill between the United States and Thailand – Washington’s oldest ally in Asia – has now grown into one of the world’s largest multinational exercises involving some 30 countries. Last year, more than 13,000 servicemembers from the United States, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea participated, with China taking part in humanitarian projects and other nations including Myanmar sending observers.