Cobra Gold to take place with 'infection safeguards'

Cobra Gold to take place with 'infection safeguards'

The 2020 Thai-US Cobra Gold military exercise will take place with necessary steps taken to safeguard the health of the soldiers, said Gen Chalermpol Srisawat, the Royal Thai Armed Forces' chief-of-staff on Friday.

Speaking at a joint press conference about the 39th instalment of the Cobra Gold exercises, Gen Chalermpol said precautionary measures will be introduced for the multinational military drill due to concerns about transmission of the coronavirus.

The exercise is scheduled to take place from Feb 25 to March 6 in Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Rayong and Chon Buri provinces. Besides Thailand and the US, the main training exercise is joined by five other nations -- Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia.

According to Michael Heath, the US embassy's charge d'affaires, the US is sending 5,500 personnel, 64 fighter jets including F-35 aircraft, and two naval ships -- the USS America and USS Green Bay.

Mr Heath reaffirmed that US-Thai relations had returned to normal following the general election in March last year and the upcoming exercise demonstrates the commitment to security cooperation.

Lt Col John M Baseel, deputy chief of Jusmag Thai, said six F-35 aircraft will take part for the first time.

India and China will be additional participants in the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT) which originally involved Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, France, the UK, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines and Fiji.

Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar, Pakistan, Cambodia, Israel, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland will take part in the Combined Observer Liaison Team.

Launched in 1982, Cobra Gold is the largest international military exercise held in the Asia-Pacific region. The 2020 edition is set to be a "heavy year", meaning it will involve more field action rather than just strategic planning and will also include "full-scale" cyber warfare training.

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