BANGKOK – Thailand and the United States on Sunday (July 10) signed two deals to deepen their cooperation during the visit of US secretary of state Antony Blinken to Bangkok.
“Our countries share the same goal – a free, open, interconnected, prosperous, resilient and secure Indo-Pacific. In recent years, we’ve worked together even more closely towards that vision,” said Mr Blinken on Sunday, during his first official trip to Thailand shortly after attending the Group of 20 (G-20) foreign ministers meeting in Indonesia’s Bali.
Calling their discussions fruitful, Thai foreign minister Don Pramudwinai said they touched on both bilateral as well as regional issues.
The two agreements signed are a Communique on Strategic Alliance and Partnership as well as a memorandum of understanding on promoting supply chain resilience. The former aims to strengthen cooperation in law enforcement, cyber-security and climate change.
The latter, according to Mr Blinken, will “make it easier for Thailand and the United States to quickly share information and consult on possible supply chain disruptions so that we can actually take early action to mitigate problems”.
“This memorandum of understanding will also make it easier to work with our respective private sectors to identify ways to make existing supply chains run more smoothly,” he added.
Mr Blinken was due to visit Thailand in December last year, but had to call it off after a member of his delegation tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.
For this trip, he was expected to discuss with Thai officials the crisis in Myanmar, and cooperation related to health, climate change and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meetings which Thailand is hosting in November this year. He was also scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Thai premier Prayut Chan-o-cha.
While both countries are long-standing treaty allies, Thailand – like much of Southeast Asia – has tried to stay neutral amid intensifying Sino-US rivalry.
Mr Blinken’s trip to Thailand comes within a week of a similar visit by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who managed to get from Bangkok a pledge to complete the much-delayed Thai-Chinese high speed railway by 2028. This will link Thailand to China via a newly opened rail system in Laos and open a faster overland conduit of goods and people.
Mr Blinken himself held some five hours of talks with Mr Wang in Bali on Saturday, addressing issues like human rights, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Mr Blinken, who had joined some of his G-20 counterparts in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Bali, had reportedly urged Beijing to distance itself from the Kremlin during his talks with Mr Wang.
“Despite the complexities of our relationship, I can say with some confidence that our delegations found today’s discussions useful, candid and constructive,” Mr Blinken said after speaking to his Chinese counterpart. US officials had earlier described the meeting as aimed at building “guardrails” to manage the intense competition between the two powers.
Mr Blinken tweeted on Saturday afternoon: “The US will continue to work together with our partners and allies to coordinate a multilateral response to global challenges, including food and energy insecurity and Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine.”