Australia seeks closer Asean ties

Australia seeks closer Asean ties

The Australian army has asked Thailand to consider inviting Australia to become an Asean dialogue partner when Bangkok assumes the rotating chair of the bloc next year, according to assistant defence spokesman Rangsan Yaowarat.

The request was made by Australian Chief of Army Angus Campbell who is paying an official visit to Thailand as a guest of the Thai military. He was welcomed by Deputy Defence Minister Gen Chaichan Changmongkol on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon who is away on a visit to the US.

Maj Gen Rangsan said the two sides discussed their longstanding diplomatic ties which have spanned more than 66 years, as well as military relations between the two countries which have continued for over 30 years marked by frequent visits by armed forces leaders.

Australia has attached importance to the reciprocal training and education programmes which are beneficial in terms of strengthening bilateral relations and forging understanding, the assistant defence spokesman said.

The two armies have agreed they must work together closely to exchange intelligence in the fight against terrorism, he added.

Maj Gen Rangsan said Australia wished to update the military cooperation agreement between the two countries. Also, the Australian chief of army conveyed Canberra's wish for Thailand to consider including Australia as a dialogue partner when Thailand is to take over the rotating chair of the Asean bloc next year.

The assistant defence spokesman said Lt Gen Campbell credited Gen Prawit's visit to the US with promoting Thailand's already strong relations with Washington.

The Australian chief of army said both Thailand and Australia are strategic partners of the US.

Gen Prawit is currently leading a Thai delegation on a visit to the US, at the invitation of the Pentagon.

On this visit from April 21-27, which marks the first official visit by a Thai defence minister to the US in over a decade, Gen Prawit is scheduled to talk to US Defence Secretary James Mattis about military cooperation and security strategy, according to defence spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich.

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