World Bulletin / News Desk
China and Thailand agreed on Friday to boost military ties over the next five years, from increasing intelligence sharing to fighting transnational crime, as the ruling junta seeks to counterbalance the country's alliance with Washington.
The agreement came during a two-day visit by China's Defence Minister Chang Wanquan to Bangkok, and asThailand's military government looks to cultivate Beijing's support amid Western unease over a delayed return to democracy.
"China has agreed to help Thailand increase protection of its own country and advise on technology to increaseThailand's national security," Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.
Thailand's army took control last May saying it needed to restore order after months of political unrest including street protests in Bangkok that killed nearly 30 people. The United States, a long-time ally of Thailand, expressed dismay at the coup and froze $4.7 million of security-related assistance and cancelled some security cooperation.
The junta has said it will hold onto power for at least another year, with a general election planned for early 2016.
Despite the tensions, the U.S. will hold its annual Cobra Gold combined military exercise with Thailand next week. The drill, however, has been scaled down in scope to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.