Bangkok ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - For the first time ever, China is taking part in the largest military exercise in Asia, supported by the United States: a small signal of détente in a tension filled region.
The Chinese soldiers, 17, from the Guangzhou command are participating in the Cobra Gold Drills which are taking place in Thailand. They are led by the United States and Thailand and include 9 thousand U.S. troops, 4 thousand Thai ; 80 from Singspore, 120 from Japan, 300 from South Korea, 160 from Indonesia and 120 from Malaysia. Another 11 nations, including Russia, Britain, Pakistan and Vietnam are invited as observers.
The Chinese will simply participate in emergency drills related to the distribution of humanitarian aid, medical aid and reconstruction. More generally, the Cobra Gold Drills include land, sea and sky maneuvers, as well as mock battles. The Cobra Gold Drills, which began in '82, are famous because among other things the soldiers are required to capture and kill cobras in the jungle, and to drink their blood (see photo).
The Thai general Tharnchaiyant Srisuwan told the Bangkok Post that "China's participation ... is a positive sign that could dampen suspicions... on the role of American troops in the region ... It is also a way to improve military relations between China and ASEAN".
Beijing has long been suspicious about the U.S. presence in the China Sea, seeing it as an attempt to contain Chinese expansion. At the same time, Beijing has tense relations with some countries of ASEAN over the sovereignty of the Spratly and Paracel islands, while China contends the sovereignty over the Senkaku / Diaoyu islands with Japan.
The military exercises will
conclude on February 23.
For the first time, this year China will also participate in maritime military exercises in the Pacific. These are also led by the United States.