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China sends fighter jets to Thailand for army exercise

China sends fighter jets to Thailand for army exercise

FLY AWAY This Aug. 7, 2022 file photo shows a warplane of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army taking off during joint combat training exercises around Taiwan. XINHUA PHOTO

BANGKOK: The Chinese air force is sending fighter jets and bombers to Thailand for a joint exercise with the Southeast Asian country’s military on Sunday.

The training will include air support, strikes on ground targets, and small- and large-scale troop deployment, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement on its website.

China’s expanding military activities in the Asia-Pacific have alarmed the United States and its allies and form part of a growing strategic and economic competition that has inflamed tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Thailand in June as part of an effort to strengthen what he called America’s “unparalleled network of alliances and partnerships” in the region.

Sunday’s exercise, called the Falcon Strike, will be held at the Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in northern Thailand, near the country’s border with Laos. Thai fighter jets and airborne early warning aircraft from both countries will also take part.

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The training comes as the US holds combat drills in Indonesia with Indonesia, Australia, Japan and Singapore in the largest iteration of the Super Garuda Shield exercises since they began in 2009.

It also follows China’s sending warships, missiles and aircraft into the waters and air around Taiwan in a threatening response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-ruled island, which China claims as its territory and, if needed, be taken by force.

Kurt Campbell, a top adviser to US President Joe Biden on the Asia-Pacific, said on Friday the US would take resolute steps to support Taiwan, including sending warships and aircraft through the 160-kilometer (100-mile) wide waterway that separates Taiwan and China.

“We’ll continue to fly, sail and operate where international law allows, consistent with our long-standing commitment to freedom of navigation,” he told reporters. “And that includes conducting standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks.”

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