The final day of the multinational “Cobra Gold” military exercises in Thailand was marked by tragedy when a Thai Air Force F16 crashed on Friday, killing the pilot. Cobra Gold, the largest military exercise in the Asia Pacific region, has been greatly reduced this year. The U.S. reduced military aid to Thailand and combat simulations have been replaced by humanitarian exercises.
CCTV’s Tony Cheng filed this report from Thailand.
Thailand's 'Cobra Gold' military drills downgrade focus to humanitarian aidThe final day of the multinational "Cobra Gold" military exercises in Thailand was marked by tragedy when a Thai Air Force F16 crashed on Friday, killing the pilot. Cobra Gold, the largest military exercise in the Asia Pacific region, has been greatly reduced this year. The U.S. reduced military aid to Thailand and combat simulations have been replaced by humanitarian exercises. CCTV's Tony Cheng filed this report from Thailand.
A group of Japanese refugees arrived at an evacuation station in the wake of a terrible natural disaster They were given first aid, ID checked and security screened before being airlifted home. This scenario was just a drill, but the focus of Cobra Gold as this year’s military exercises were downgraded from combat training to humanitarian aid. The reason behind the downgrade was a political spat between Thailand and the U.S., although generals on both sides were keen to show it was business as usual.
For the first time this year, Cobra Gold saw the full participation of a team from the Peoples Liberation Army. That led some to surmise that Thailand is shifting its allegiances closer to the regional power. Even so, the Acting Ambassador believes closer co-operation, not competition, is the good news story from this years exercise.
“Its outstanding to see Thailand have good relationships with China and all of its neighbors,” W. Patric Murphy, Charge D’Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said. “On display here are all the benefits of trilateral relationships and co-operation.”
Tensions in the Asia Pacific, however, have been rising over the past 12 months. Japan’s possible return to combat readiness was in evidence at Cobra Gold. Japanese civilians being processed through a mock evacuation center with Cobra Gold has been refocused this year to concentrate on humanitarian rather than combat operations, but the Japanese were there in larger numbers and in full force.
The other major shift was U.S. forces’ withdrawal from combat operations in Afghanistan and a refusal to be drawn into ground operations against the ISIL.
Asia studies expert Greg Poling discusses Cobra Gold’s shift in focus
CCTV America interviewed Greg Poling for more insight on Cobra Gold’s downgrade to humanitarian aid focus. Poling is a fellow for the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies and Pacific Partners Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.