Defense Secretary Carter praises Thai support

defense1United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter praised Thailand’s support of the bilateral alliance and its commitment to having the U.S. armed forces participate in trainings with the Thai military, according to Thailand’s Minister of Defense who met with Carter at the U.S.-ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting in Hawaii last week.

Colonel Kongcheep Tantravanich, a spokesperson for Thailand’s Ministry of Defense, said Secretary Carter thanked Thailand for supporting the U.S. in holding military exercises around the region. Carter also praised Thailand’s determination to tackle human trafficking, illegal fishing and address aviation safety concerns, the spokesperson said.

Carter’s comments were made to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who also holds the title of Defense Minister and oversees security affairs for the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. All of the 10 defense ministers from the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) attended the three-day meeting from October 1 – 3 in Hawaii.

Carter’s comments and recent statements by the United States Department of State and other U.S. government agencies are evidence of renewed warming in relations and a strengthening of bilateral ties, as Washington has increasingly recognized the efforts of the current Thai government in many problem areas and the Kingdom’s strategic importance in the region.

“The U.S. wants to maintain good relations with Thailand,” Col. Kongcheep said.

Thailand is the oldest treaty ally of the United States in Asia, with formal relations dating back to 1833. Thai soldiers fought side-by-side with U.S. troops in Korea and Vietnam and served with them in many United Nations peacekeeping operations.

ASEAN and the U.S. are facing common threats that were discussed during the Hawaii meeting such as terrorism, maritime piracy, cyber warfare and security, natural disasters, and transnational criminal syndicates engaged in trafficking people, drugs and weapons.

The influence and recruiting efforts of the Islamic State in the region was also raised as a cause of concern.

Kongcheep said these issues require cooperation among regional members and other countries to create networks to deal with these problems. The U.S. strategy of pivoting to Asia would be a boon to ASEAN, he said, as the group wants the U.S. to play a constructive role in ensuring liberty, peace and security in the region.