China to join Cobra Gold war games

China to join Cobra Gold war games

China will take part in this year's Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand for the first time, a source at the Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTAF) said Sunday.

After observing the annual military exercise for several years, China will become part of the training.

China will not participate in the combat side and instead will focus on humanitarian operations. 

It will assist with disaster relief among other exercises, the source said. 

News of China's addition came after the RTAF abruptly cancelled a joint press conference on the war games with US charge d'affaires W Patrick Murphy Sunday.

No reason was given for the cancellation.

Japan and South Korea joined the Cobra Gold exercise last year and took part in the humanitarian parts of the training, the source said.

China had asked to be part of the Cobra Gold training in the past and Thailand had suggested to the US that China should be allowed to take part, the source said. 

The Thai military and its Chinese counterpart have undertaken a number of joint military training excercises, under the "Strikes" code-name, the source said.

Special warfare exercises were code-named Strike, a drill between the two navies was called Blue Strike, and joint-air force exercises are known as Lighting Strike, the source said.

Between Friday and Sunday, the Chinese defence minister will meet deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon.

During the meeting, the two sides are expected to discuss possible military cooperation. 

Also likely to come up for talks will be the weapons which the Chinese defence ministry has been researching, China's weapons sales to Thailand and future joint military exercises. 

The Cobra Gold war games will not be scaled back, despite current diplomatic unease between Thailand and the US.

About 5,000 American soldiers, 4,000 Thai soldiers, and 10,000 from 20 other nations will participate in the two-week Cobra Gold exercise that will kick off next Monday at Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School in Nakhon Nayok.

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