The United States and Thailand signed deals today to deepen the countries’ already strong ties, as Washington steps up efforts to counter China’s growing influence in Asia, Bloomberg reports.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai pledged to advance cooperation in climate change, law enforcement and security cooperation.
Blinken’s visit comes a day after he met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Indonesia on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting.
Blinken will also meet with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. China’s Wang has been engaged in intense diplomacy across Asia in recent weeks and met with Prayuth on Tuesday.
“We are moving our partnership fully into the 21st century,” Blinken said, adding that Thailand is an important ally “in a region that is shaping the course of the century.”
Blinken last year postponed a trip to Thailand, America’s oldest ally in Asia, after a regional tour was halted when a case of COVID-19 was found in the accompanying press corps.
The Biden administration has sought to strengthen ties with a region that had become uncertain of U.S. commitment during a period of perceived neglect under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. During that time, China expanded its influence while pushing for investment and trade integration.
“We have also laid the foundation for the next 190 years,” said Thailand’s foreign minister, as the two countries prepare to celebrate 190 years of relations next year.
Talks with Prayuth will include the Myanmar crisis and expanding cooperation, the State Department said.
Myanmar’s military has stepped up pressure against ethnic minority armies since last year’s coup and is facing resistance on multiple fronts, including from militia groups allied with the ousted government.
Earlier on Sunday, Blinken met with Myanmar youth leaders in the Thai capital, Bangkok.
After Thailand, he will make an unscheduled stop in Tokyo to express his condolences to the Japanese people following the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the State Department said.