China, Thailand kick off joint air force drills

However, in 2020, a $724 million deal to order two Chinese-made submarines was delayed due to a wave of public outcry.

Thailand and China today began a joint air exercise after a long pause because of Covid-19.

The “Falcon Strike” comes on the heels of China’s largest-ever military exercise around Taiwan, conducted in response to a visit to the island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Thai Air Force Marshal Prapas Sornchai Dee said the “Falcon Strike” exercise, which took place from Aug. 14 to 25 in the country’s northeast, was aimed at “strengthening ties and deepening understanding” with China.

China’s Defense Ministry last week announced it would send fighter jets, bombers and early warning aircraft (AEW) to the exercises with Thailand, adding that the exercises will include training in “air support, attacking ground targets combined with small and large-scale troop deployments.”

Joint exercises between the Thai and Chinese air forces have been held regularly since 2015 until the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Washington has expressed concern over Beijing’s increasingly tough military moves in the Pacific region, and the U.S. last week launched “Super Shield Garuda” exercises in Indonesia and its allies.

Thailand is seeking to strengthen its defense ties with China, and was one of the first countries to buy naval hardware from China under an agreement signed in 2017.