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US Army chief of staff signs ‘strategic vision’ pact with Thailand at Bangkok meeting with PM

US Army chief of staff signs ‘strategic vision’ pact with Thailand at Bangkok meeting with PM

US Army Chief of Staff General James McConville met with Thailand’s PM Prayuth Chan-ocha and its army chief Apirat Kongsompong in Bangkok on Friday. It was the first high-level visit by a foreign delegation to Thailand since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted international travel.

A Strategic Vision Statement was signed during the meeting, the US Embassy said in a statement, as Washington looks to reassure allies about its commitment to the region. The embassy said McConville and Apirat “discussed modernization, interoperability, joint training, and doctrine.”

The US has sought to counter China’s influence in Southeast Asia, while Thailand is Washington’s oldest ally in the region. However, relations were strained by a 2014 military coup led by then-army chief Prayuth that ousted an elected civilian government. The US scaled back some military exchanges with Thailand, and Bangkok responded by forging closer ties with China.

Relations improved after last year’s general election that officially restored civilian rule while keeping Prayuth on as a civilian leader. The development resulted in an arms deal for US-made armored personnel carriers and light attack helicopters last year, Reuters said.