Amidst concerns that Thailand might be moving into China’s orbit, Japan is considering selling arms to Bangkok according to the Nikkei Asian Review:
Thailand is interested in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s P-1 patrol aircraft and US-2 large amphibious rescue aircraft.
Japan wants to get between Beijing and Thailand’s military government, and the cooperation deal could serve as an effective wedge.
Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani on Tuesday will meet Prawit Wongsuwan, Thailand’s deputy prime minister and defense minister, in Bangkok to discuss the defense equipment deal.
The contract, a prerequisite for exports of defense equipment from Japan, would require Thailand to get Japan’s nod before transferring or using any of the supplied equipment and related technologies for purposes other than those initially set forth.
Thailand had been a reliable ally of the United States until a coup in 2014 created a rift between the two countries. After several rounds of condemnations of the Thai junta coming from Foggy Bottom, over the past two years we’ve seen Bangkok make friendlier noises toward Beijing, which has been only happy to reciprocate. In March, reports indicated that China is planning a series of major infrastructure investments in Thailand.
Japan, by contrast, isn’t taking Washington’s human rights-first approach to Thailand policy. Tokyo has been strengthening relations with everyone from Korea to India in an effort to create a web of alliances that can constrain China’s ambitions. Is Thailand the next link in the chain?