Air force drills

Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on 4 August, 2022, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island. – China is due on August 4 to kick off its largest-ever military exercises encircling Taiwan, in a show of force straddling vital international shipping lanes following a visit to the self-ruled island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Hector RETAMAL / AFP

Thailand joins China, ready to kick off joint air force drills

The Thai-Chinese air force drills kicked off on Sunday aiming at strengthen relations and understanding between the countries

Air force drills

Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on 4 August, 2022, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island. – China is due on August 4 to kick off its largest-ever military exercises encircling Taiwan, in a show of force straddling vital international shipping lanes following a visit to the self-ruled island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Hector RETAMAL / AFP

Thailand and China kicked off a joint air force exercise on Sunday, the kingdom’s military said, the first such drills in years following a pause forced by Covid-19.

The “Falcon Strike” exercise comes after China’s biggest-ever military drills around Taiwan, which were conducted in retaliation to a visit there by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Thai Air Chief Marshall Prapas Sornchaidee said “Falcon Strike”, running from August 14-25 in the northeast of the country, was meant to “strengthen relations and understanding” with China.

The visiting Chinese contingent will include fighter jets, bombers and airborne early-warning (AEW) planes, the defence ministry in Beijing said last week.

It added that the drills will involve training for “air support, strikes on ground targets, and small- and large-scale troop deployment”.

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China and Thailand kick off joint air force drills

The Thai-Chinese air force drills were held regularly since 2015 until the pandemic hit.

Washington has expressed growing concern over China’s assertiveness in the Pacific region, and last week launched the “Super Garuda Shield” exercise in Indonesia with its allies.

Thailand and sought to strengthen its defence ties with China, and was among the first countries to buy Chinese naval hardware under a deal finalised in 2017.

In 2020, however, a subsequent $724 million (about R11.8 billion) deal for two Chinese-made submarines was delayed after a public outcry.

Further wrangling over the vessels’ engines may see the delivery pushed back to 2024, local media reported this month.

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© Agence France-Presse