By AP and published by CBC
THE Chinese air force is sending fighter jets and bombers to Thailand for a joint exercise with the Thai military today, August 14, 2022.
The training will include air support, strikes on ground targets and small- and large-scale troop deployment, the Chinese Defence Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
A Reuters report published by Swissinfo.ch quoted the Thai air force as saying that the annual joint fighter jets exercise between Thailand and China is resuming this month after being put on hold for two years during the pandemic.
The “Falcon Strike” exercise has taken place four times since 2015 and will run for 11 days from today, August 14, at the base in northeastern Udon Thani that was home to US forces during the Vietnam war.
Thai fighter jets and airborne early warning aircraft from both countries will also take part.
China’s expanding military activities in the Asia-Pacific region have alarmed the United States and its allies and form part of a growing strategic and economic competition that has inflamed tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Thailand in June as part of an effort to strengthen what he called America’s “unparalleled network of alliances and partnerships” in the region.
The training comes as the US holds combat drills in Indonesia with Indonesia, Australia, Japan and Singapore in the largest iteration of the Super Garuda Shield exercises since they began in 2009.
It also follows China’s sending warships, missiles and aircraft into the waters and air around Taiwan in a threatening response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-ruled island, which China claims as its territory.
Kurt Campbell, a top adviser to US President Joe Biden on the Indo-Pacific, said on Friday that the US would take resolute steps to support Taiwan, including sending warships and aircraft through the 160-kilometre-wide waterway that separates Taiwan and mainland China.
“We’ll continue to fly, sail and operate where international law allows, consistent with our longstanding commitment to freedom of navigation,” he said in a call with reporters. “And that includes conducting standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks.”
Air force and naval aviation corps of the Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army fly planes at an unspecified location in China on Aug. 4, in this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency. The Chinese air force will conduct a joint exercise with the Thai military. Photo: Fu Gan/Xinhua/The Associated Press