PartnershipsSoutheast Asia

Thailand, U.S. to hold annual military drills with troops from 30 nations

Radio Free Asia

Thailand and the United States will stage annual, large-scale military drills in late February 2024, with more than 10,000 troops from 30 nations expected to participate.

As part of the maneuvers, Thai and U.S. personnel will salvage the Royal Thai Navy corvette HTMS Sukhothai, which sank during a storm in the Gulf of Thailand in December 2022, leaving 34 crew members dead or missing.

Exercise Cobra Gold, scheduled for February 27 to March 10 in Thailand, will be the 43rd iteration of the world’s longest-running multilateral military training program, one of the Indo-Pacific’s largest combined exercises.

Cobra Gold, an annual multilateral exercise in Thailand, enhances readiness and interoperability among partner forces. Troops from Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the United States will participate in Cobra Gold 2024.

Troops from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the U.S. will conduct combat rehearsals at five locations, including amphibious landings, strategic parachute jumps, ground and air live-fire, and cyberwarfare.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) will not participate in combat drills but will join civic action missions with India.

The exercises follow a late January meeting in Bangkok between U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and PRC foreign minister Wang Yi to ease tensions between the nations.

Cobra Gold will feature an array of sophisticated military hardware, officials said.

“The objective of the exercise for 2024 is to enhance the relations of all participating nations, to enhance the forces’ capability and interoperability in conducting missions under the joint-combined environment, and adapt to various kinds of threats and crises,” said Gen. Thitichai Tiantong, the Royal Thai Armed Forces’ chief of Joint Staff.

The focus will be amphibious landing rehearsals, according to Col. Kurt Leffler, chief of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group.

The salvage operation, meanwhile, “will hopefully bring some comfort and closure to the families of all the brave Sailors and Marines who were lost,” U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Robert Godec said at a news conference.

He also stressed the importance of the Indo-Pacific, a conduit for up to 60% of the world’s maritime trade.

“Cobra Gold maintains our shared readiness to secure the global commons, which is particularly relevant with piracy on the rise in key shipping routes around the world,” he said. “Protecting Indo-Pacific maritime trade routes ensures the free flow of goods and services, which keeps transportation costs low, enabling Thai and American businesses to thrive and prosper and benefiting consumers through lower prices.”

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