11 July 2024

Senior US defence officials will visit Thailand next week to strengthen ties with its ally in the Indo-Pacific.

ADM John Aquilino, Indo-Pacific Commander, is reportedly scheduled to stopover in Bangkok from June 7th to 9th, before he attends the Shangri-La Dialogue over next weekend in Singapore. His last visit here was in October last year.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will then also visit Bangkok, after he attends the dialogue in Singapore on June 12th and 13th, to strengthen bilateral security ties further.

During a courtesy call in Washington DC, ahead of the special ASEAN-US summit last month, due to time constraints, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Austin were unable to have a substantive conversation. Subsequently, Austin said he will visit Bangkok after the defence forum in Singapore, according to informed sources.

The visits are to take place after the recent high level dialogue in Washington DC, involving senior Thai and American officials from foreign affairs and defence. It was the first time that such a strategic dialogue took place. Both sides expressed satisfaction with their meetings, which will now be held on an annual basis.

Furthermore, these visits signify the importance of Thailand as one of the US’s oldest allies in the Indo-Pacific region. The American strategists completely ignored Thailand in its earlier versions of US national strategies. After several revisions, however, Thailand is now included in the final Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Both countries have set up a joint working group to prepare activities and programs that will commemorate the 190th anniversary of their relationship. The US and Thailand signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1833, but their relations actually began earlier in the nineteenth century.