Secretary Kerry meets with Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul at the U.S. Department of State. May 6, 2013. Image: U.S. State Department

US-Thai Relations Continue Moving Forward

ASEAN The Mekong

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Washington, D.C., May 5-7, amidst talk of a possible visit to the United States later this year by Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Engagement between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States has been on an upward trend over the past twelve months and includes a number of high level meetings between the two countries. This year marks the 180th anniversary of U.S.-Thai diplomatic relations and Thailand was the first country in Asia that the United States established a treaty relationship with back in 1883, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce.

President Obama visited Thailand last November en route to the East Asia Summit, and that visit was the first time that a U.S. president only went to Southeast Asia on an official foreign trip. Just prior to President Obama’s visit, then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was in Thailand where he signed the 2012 Joint Vision Statement for the Thai-U.S. Defense Alliance with his Thai counterpart Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat. The 2012 U.S.-Thai joint vision focuses on broader security challenges in Southeast Asia, including humanitarian relief and disaster assistance, greater interoperability between U.S. and Thai military forces, and increased consultations between the two countries. This past February, Thailand again hosted the region’s largest multilateral military exercise with the United States, Cobra Gold, involving 13,000 participants from five other Asian countries, and 20 observer countries, including for the first time Burma.

Secretary Kerry, in remarks with Deputy Prime Minister Tovichakchaikul prior to their meeting, highlighted areas beyond Asia where Thailand and the United States cooperate together including in Darfur and anti-piracy operations in the Horn of Africa, in addition to cooperation on “the environment to wildlife protection, species protection, counter-narcotics, organized crime, other initiatives with respect to refugees and trafficking, anti-trafficking efforts.”

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that Thailand welcomes “U.S. private sector participation in public-private partnership on connectivity projects in Thailand,” and it is considering joining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The minister also welcomed the U.S. rebalance to the Asia Pacific region and the high level of attention that the United States has given to ASEAN-led regional initiatives. Deputy Prime Minister Tovichakchaikul reiterated Thailand’s “active participation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism as well as its participation of Thailand in the Proliferation Security Initiative.” In addition, an invitation was extended to Secretary Kerry to visit Thailand later this year. "Both men praised the strong relationship between their two countires and said they expect bilateral ties will deepen in the coming years," according to the Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C.