Defense Secretary Austin meets with Thai leaders in Bangkok

U.S. Defense Secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin met Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in Bangkok to discuss increasing cooperation on security issues including cyber and space technology, and defense industry collaboration as part of strengthening the Thai-U.S. alliance.

Thailand “is an important country” to the U.S., Austin told reporters after meeting the Prime Minister. The Kingdom is America’s oldest treaty partner in Asia with official recognition and a treaty dating back to 1833. Thailand’s foreign policy is geared towards maintaining friendly relations with all countries.

The Defense Secretary touched down in Thailand after traveling to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue, an inter-governmental security conference hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and attended by Defense Ministers from the Asia-Pacific region.

Austin addressed the Dialogue for the first time. He emphasized the centrality of the region as vital to U.S. interests, and he underscored America’s vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“You heard me talk in my speech about the power of partnerships, and that is what we are here in Thailand to reinforce with our long-standing allies,” Austin said at a press conference after meeting the Prime Minister. “We are working to enhance Thailand’s ability to protect its own security interests. We also discussed our emerging cooperation in new domains such as space and cyberspace.”

Austin added that “The economy of Thailand, as you well know, is in the top 25 economies in the world. There are things that we can do together to create additional regional stability going forward.”

A joint statement issued after the meeting mentioned that both sides welcomed the incorporation of space and cyber cooperation into major bilateral exercises, such as Cobra Gold, and agreed to continue to cooperate on cyber capacity-building.  The two also discussed Thailand’s interest in enhanced defence industry cooperation.

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