China and Thailand kick off joint air force drills

Fu Gan/Xinhua via AP

Thailand and China kicked off a joint air force exercise on Sunday (Aug 14), 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 largest military drills around Taiwan, which were conducted in retaliation to a visit there by United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Thai Air Chief Marshall Prapas Sornchaidee said "Falcon Strike", running from Aug 14 to Aug 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".

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.

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