US, Asian troops hit the beach for ‘Cobra Gold’ military drills

World Today

CMC Observes Cobra GoldCommandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller and other distinguished visitors observe an amphibious assault exercise during Exercise Cobra Gold, Hat Yao, Thailand, Feb. 17, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz)

While leaders talked security at the Munich Security Conference, massive military exercises were underway in Thailand. “Cobra Gold” is held every year, with the U.S. and countries from across Asia participating.

CGTN’s Tony Cheng reports.

A Thai F-16 fighter jet roared down the coast, dropping its payload just off the beach. A few moments later, another strike hit on land.

Off the coast, the USS Bonhomme Richard led a small armada of naval vessels, while dinghy’s with elite Navy SEALS advanced with the first wave troops to hit the shore. 

This was the showcase event of Cobra Gold, the largest military exercises in Asia. After several years of scaled back operations, the American military doubled its presence, keen to engage with allies.

“We have to be able to operate together, work together, serve interoperably to deal with all manner of crises and natural disasters that occur,” U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies said.

This year’s show of force comes amid a growing crisis on the Korean peninsula. As the amphibious landing craft approached the beach they launched smoke canisters to disguise their advance. There was no disguising the troops in the advance position, however, as the carriers rolled onto the beach and the troops rolled out.

The beach landing exercise was spearheaded by South Korean Marines. This is the type of exercise they’ve been practicing for the last six months with their colleagues from the U.S., perhaps in preparedness for any sort of offensive action against the DPRK.

Senior brass, however, were not keen to talk about the growing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

“I don’t think that’s relevant,” according to Brigadier General Choi Yong So. “This exercise went according to plan, and we don’t have any contingency situation affecting the exercise.”

It’s no coincidence the South Korean forces were closest to the media’s cameras, and that they have increased their profile at this year’s Cobra Gold. According to a U.S. Marines commander, it is essential that they practice drills like this with their allies.

“I work with the ROK all the time, some of my closest friends are ROK 1st Division Marines, and my counterpart is 3rd Division Marines US. The Thais the same way,” Assistant Commander Colonel Michael Kuhn said. “In my opinion, we can’t do this enough.”