China, Thai air forces hold first joint exercises

BEIJING • The Chinese and Thai air forces will this month hold their first joint exercises in another sign of military-led Thailand's increased engagement with China.

The "Falcon Strike 2015" drills from today to the end of the month will take place at the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, China's Defence Ministry said yesterday.

"The aim of this joint exercise is to increase mutual learning and understanding between the two countries' air forces, deepen Sino- Thai practical cooperation and increase mutual trust and friendship," it said in a statement.

An army-led coup toppled Thailand's elected government in May last year after months of street protests, at times violent.

The coup was widely condemned by Western nations, which downgraded their diplomatic ties with Thailand.

Since then, Bangkok, a traditional ally of Washington, has sought to improve relations with its neighbours.

It has stepped up engagement with China, as Beijing increases its influence in the region with a raft of loans and aid for infrastructure.

Beijing has rattled nerves in South-east Asia with its increasingly assertive acts in the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei all have competing territorial claims.

A summit of Asean defence ministers last week, attended by both the United States and China, failed to produce a final statement because the delegations could not agree on whether to mention the South China Sea dispute.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'China, Thai air forces hold first joint exercises'. Print Edition | Subscribe