US, Thailand Resume Strategic Dialogue in Boost for Strained Alliance

Washington and Bangkok hold high-level talks for the first time in three years.

US, Thailand Resume Strategic Dialogue in Boost for Strained Alliance

Thai troops join counterparts from other countries during the 2011 iteration of the Cobra Gold exercises.

Credit: U.S. Marines Photo

On December 16, the United States and Thailand resumed their strategic dialogue for the first time in three years (See: “Exclusive: Managing the Strained US-Thailand Alliance”).

As The Diplomat reported last week, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel will lead the delegation to the 5th U.S.-Thai Strategic Dialogue scheduled for Wednesday (See: “US Top Asia Diplomat Travels to Thailand, Laos and Japan”). That is a significant move as it will mark the first time the dialogue has been held between the two allies since June 2012 when it was held in Washington, D.C. The alliance has been strained since a coup in Thailand in May 2014.

The dialogue, the State Department said in a statement issued last Friday, would cover “the full range of the political, security, and economic cooperation with Thailand.” These include issues such as public health, climate change, trade and investment, education and youth programs, law enforcement cooperation, combating trafficking in persons and transnational crime, and other areas.

The fifth Thai-U.S. Strategic Dialogue will be co-chaired by Russel as well as Apichart Chinwanno, undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Diplomat understands that both sides will not only review ongoing efforts, but also compare notes on the strategic landscape in the Asia-Pacific; discuss collaboration at the regional and global levels on areas ranging from the Mekong subregion and the South China Sea to transnational crime and peacekeeping; and also focus on how to boost joint cooperation.

“We plan to discuss practical ways we can expand our cooperation to promote peace, security, and prosperity,” the State Department’s East Asia-Pacific spokesperson Katina Adams told The Diplomat in response to an inquiry about the strategic dialogue. “We will also have candid discussions with Thai officials on our bilateral partnership and our policy.”

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Thailand has long stressed the need for the two allies to remain engaged in dialogue at the highest levels, despite differences over rights and other issues.

“We’re very clear-eyed about the challenges. But we believe it is important for us to sit down and have close and consistent dialogue between friends on all issues,” one Thai official told The Diplomat ahead of the resumption of the dialogue.