Trump to invite Prayut for second visit

Trump to invite Prayut for second visit

US President Donald Trump is getting ready to invite Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to the White House again early next year, a US source who asked not to be named said.

The source provided no details other than saying his agency had been ordered to coordinate with its Thai counterparts and that the visit could be either in January or February.

The source was speaking at a meeting with Thai journalists who were invited to visit the US Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Gen Prayut's visit will be timed in line with Cobra Gold 2020, which is scheduled for Feb 25-March 6, the first such joint military exercises to be held since Thailand's general election in March.

At the United States Indo-Pacific Command (IndoPACOM), Maj Jennifer Giles said the 2020 exercises will be a "heavy year", meaning they will involve more field action rather than just practice on strategic planning.

The US-made Stryker armoured infantry carriers will be among the highlights, she said, adding that a joint landmine reduction operation will also be conducted.

On Sept 12, the army received its first batch of Stryker carriers to be assigned to the 11th Infantry Regiment.

The Thai army had struck a deal to purchase 37 "refurbished" Strykers for US$80 million (2.4 billion baht), but under the contract the US Army was also scheduled to give the Thai army 23 more Strykers for free, bringing the total up to 60.

Thai and US forces destroyed more than 5,000 pieces of unexploded Ordnance and Explosive Remnants of War in 2018 and 5,500 in 2019.

Meanwhile, Maj Gen Suzanne Vares-Lum, mobilisation assistant to IndoPACOM and acting chief of staff, insisted there were no plans for the US to set up a military base in Thailand.

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