THE CHINESE and Thai air forces will this month hold their first joint exercises, China's Defence Ministry said yesterday, in another sign of Thailand's increased engagement with Beijing.
The “Falcon Strike 2015” drills will take place at the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base from November 12 to 30, the Chinese Defence Ministry said in a short statement. “The aim of this joint exercise is to increase mutual learning and understanding between the two countries’ airforces, deepen Sino-Thai cooperation and increase mutual trust and friendship.”
An Army-led coup toppled Thailand’s elected government in May last year, after months of sometimes violent street protests. The coup was widely condemned by Western nations, which downgraded diplomatic ties, but the military rulers claimed to have support from China following the move. Since then, Thailand, a traditional ally of the United States, has sought to improve ties with its neighbours. It stepped up engagement with China, as Beijing increases its influence in the region with a raft of loans and aid for infrastructure.
China has rattled nerves in the region with its increasingly assertive acts in the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei all have competing territorial claims.