US understood Thailand's decision on its request : Surapong
Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Thursday he believed that the United States would understand Thailand's decision on its request to use U-tapao even though the US space agency cancelled its plan to conduct atmospheric studies this year.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) said in a June 26 announcement on its website and Twitter that it unfortunately had to call off the airborne science mission planned for Southeast Asia this year due to the absence of necessary approvals by regional authorities in the timeframe necessary to support the mission.
The Nasa announcement came after the Thai cabinet on Tuesday resolved to refer the Nasarequest to use U-tapao naval airbase as its base to conduct atmospheric studies to Parliament for a non-voting debate for transparency.
Surapong, now visiting Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, said that when he telephoned US ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney to inform her of the government's decision, she said she understood. He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally informed the US government at the same time.
He said that it was regrettable and the government must wait and see whether Nasa will return to Thailand next year for its mission.
He criticised the opposition Democrat Party for trying to politicise the issue.
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said the ministry unofficially acknowledged the NASA decision but the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs said that it had not yet received an official letter from Nasa.
A statement posted on Nasa's website Thursday said "Nasa cancelled the SEAC4RS mission, which was scheduled to begin in August 2012, due to the absence of necessary approvals by regional authorities in the timeframe necessary to support the mission’s planned deployment and scientific observation window."
The Southeast Asia Composition, Cloud, Climate Coupling Regional Study (SEAC4RS) was scheduled to take to the field in August.
London-based Reuters news agency on Thursday quoted NASA spokesman Steve Cole in Washington as saying that no decision has been made on whether Nasa will be able to fly the mission next year or some other time in the future.
Cole was quoted as saying that there is a range of options other than U-tapao, both inside and outside Thailand, that could perhaps serve as headquarters for a future study but he did not want to give the impression that Nasais actively considering specific locations. "We are not yet at that stage," he added.