The United States, South Korea, and Thailand recently united for joint training exercises in eastern Thailand at the Sattahip Royal Thai Marine Corps Base in February. Troops from the three countries practiced amphibious vehicle landings and evacuation drills, among other exercises. Developing new strategies for cooperation, naval forces from the United States, South Korea, and Thailand also participated in underwater construction exercises for the first time ever. This included upgrading the Sattahip Navy Base to enhance its efficiency and prepare it for future exercises.
The joint training occurred as part of this year’s Cobra Gold exercises, now in their 37th year. Cobra Gold was initially launched to help improve coordination between US and Thai forces, while South Korea first participated in 2010. Cobra Gold has since grown to become the largest Asia-Pacific military exercise. This year was no exception, featuring 11,000 service members from 29 countries across the Asia-Pacific region, including 6,800 troops from the United States. Cobra Gold seeks to enhance regional security cooperation, develop peacekeeping forces, and prepare for disaster relief missions. South Korean navy Lt. Donghyua Oh also noted that, “Thai, South Korean, and US personnel working together strengthens the alliances between them exponentially. This Cobra Gold and every other one moving forward will continue to grow and strengthen the teams combined interoperability.”
South Korea and Thailand are two of the most important US security allies, underlining the significance of joint training exercises that enhance cooperation among the three nations. Aside from participating in larger exercises like Cobra Gold together, the United States also holds smaller trainings with its allies. The joint US-ROK Combined Forces Command exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian has taken place annually since 1976, and aims to improve US-South Korean interoperability. Meanwhile, the Washington National Guard cooperates with Thai forces to enhance mutual security as part of the State Partnership Program.
Savannah Shih is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student of Asian Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.