China and US treaty ally Thailand bolster military ties
- Air forces kick off 11 days of joint exercises, with highly realistic air combat simulations expected
- Boost for submarine deal as Royal Thai Navy considers using Chinese-made engine
As Sino-US tensions rise, China’s military ties with Thailand – a US treaty ally – are progressing steadily, with joint exercises and arms sales.
“But I am not overly optimistic about the China-Thailand relationship because there is a clear pattern in Thailand’s foreign policy that it is always full of ups and downs, back and forth, and twist and turns,” he said, adding such gyrations could be due to domestic politics or a way to improve Thailand’s bargaining position.
The two air forces will practise air support, strikes on ground targets and small- and large-scale troop deployment operations.
With both sides’ fighters equipped with active electronically scanned array radar and advanced air-to-air missiles – and with the assistance of the airborne early warning aircraft – some highly realistic air combat simulations are expected.
China’s Ministry of National Defence said in a statement the exercise aimed to “enhance mutual trust and friendship between the air forces of the two countries [and] deepen practical cooperation”.
The submarine deal came back from the brink of being scrapped last week after months of negotiations.
The Chinese shipbuilder has sent the specifications of an improved version of its CHD620 diesel engine and the Royal Thai Navy will carry out a thorough assessment by September 15. If the specifications prove satisfactory and a sample engine passes follow-up tests, the deal could go ahead, RTN spokesman Vice-Admiral Pokkrong Monthatphalin said earlier this month.
“But if the substitute from CSOC cannot pass the test, the contract must be terminated, and the two sides will have to hold talks to discuss compensation or a refund,” he said. “However, the RTN would prefer not to completely reset the process, if possible.”