China sends fighter jets to Thailand for joint exercises

BANGKOK — The Chinese Air Force will send fighter jets and bombers to Thailand on Sunday for a joint exercise with the Thai army.

The training includes air support, strikes against ground targets and the deployment of small and large-scale troops, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement on its website.

China’s growing military activities in the Asia-Pacific region have alarmed the United States and its allies and are part of a growing strategic and economic competition that has fueled 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 “unrivaled network of alliances and partnerships” in the region.

The Falcon Strike exercise will be held at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in northern Thailand, near the border with Laos. Thai fighter jets and airborne aircraft from both countries will also participate.

The training comes as the US conducts combat exercises in Indonesia with Indonesia, Australia, Japan and Singapore in the largest iteration of the Super Garuda Shield exercises since its inception in 2009.

It also follows China’s sending of warships, missiles and planes into the waters and air around Taiwan in a looming response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-governed island, which China claims as its territory.

Kurt Campbell, a top adviser to President Joe Biden on the Indo-Pacific, said Friday that the US would take decisive steps to support Taiwan, including sending warships and planes through the 160-kilometer-wide waterway that separates Taiwan and China.

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“We will continue to fly, sail and operate where international law allows, consistent with our longstanding commitment to freedom of navigation,” he said in an interview with reporters. “And that includes conducting standard air and sea transit across the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks.”

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