Head of U.S. Joint Chiefs calls Thailand good partner

Old friends are often the best of friends, and the enduring nature of the alliance between the United States and Thailand was hailed by Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff who praised the Kingdom as a good partner and vowed to expand military-to-military relations during a visit to Thailand last week.

“It is important to maintain relations with Thailand, because they have outstanding visibility in the maritime domain in a critical part of the world,” said Dunford, who also commander of the Marine Corps. “They have been a good partner overall, and … our strength globally and particularly in the Pacific is our network of allies and partners.”

Dunford made a point of meeting Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan as well as his Thai counterpart Gen. Tarnchaiyan Srisuwan. The Pentagon had issued a statement prior to the visit that said U.S.-Thai military relations are being “re-energized”.

“We’ve had good discussions about how we will move the relationship forward and what opportunities exist for us to deepen our military-to-military relationship,” Dunford told reporters in Bangkok.

Dunford’s visit to Thailand, the first by a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2012, took place as the first U.S. troops and sailors began arriving in Thailand to prepare for the annual Cobra Gold joint military exercises, which run from February 12-23. Dunford participated in the very first Cobra Gold in 1981. Since then, the exercises have grown to a multilateral event with nearly 30 countries taking part this year, along with about 6,800 U.S. servicemen and women.

Dunford stressed that the partnership between the U.S. and Thailand transcends various administrations in both nations, and strategically he takes a much longer view.

“In my view, the most important thing about our relationship has been that together, we have contributed to a rules-based international order for more than 70 years,” Dunford said. “So when I think about our relationship, I don’t think about it in two-year, or three-year, or five-year increments, I think about our relationship in terms of decades.

“We want to make sure we have a 21st century relationship. We want to make sure that our training, our professional military education, our equipping is all going to allow us to be relevant in face of the challenges we will face tomorrow,” Dunford said.

Photo courtesy of www.thaigov.go.th