Thailand suspends buying submarines from China over US concern: expert

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-17 0:38:01

The relationship with the US is an important factor in Thailand's decision to hold back its plan to buy submarines from China, analysts said on Thursday.

Thailand's navy had planned to purchase its first submarine from China, said Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan earlier this month.

However, Prawit told reporters the previously approved $1.06 billion acquisition was on hold, for the navy needs to reconsider the role of the vessels and their cost, Reuters reported Wednesday.

"We will wait for now and not introduce it to the cabinet for approval," Prawit said Thursday.

Thailand, a staunch US ally, has been stepping toward a closer relationship with China amid China's increasing influence in the region with loans and aid for infrastructure, said Reuters.

Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times that the relationship with the US is an important factor contributing to Thailand's decision, though "not necessarily the major one."

"It's clear that the US definitely does not want to see any closer cooperation between China and Thailand, especially in terms of military and defense," said Li, adding that from the perspective of foreign relations, it is understandable and predictable that Thailand considers its relationship with the US as a very important diplomatic priority.

The majority of Thailand's 17-strong submarine purchasing committee voted to buy submarines from China, saying it was the "best value for money," US news portal reported on June 26.

Lan Yun, deputy editor-in-chief of the Beijing-based Modern Ships magazine, said that the S-26T Submarine China pitched is the most cost-effective model among all the biddings.

"Thailand's defense ministry might not have reached a consensus with its finance ministry on the issue of cost and Thailand is not in urgent need of a submarine," said Lan. With an Air-Independent Propulsion system, the 2,600-Ton submarine priced $355 million was obviously a better choice than the 900-Ton S-210 German submarine, costing around $340 million, added Lan.

The purchasing committee of Thailand's defense ministry has given a budget of no more than $355 million for one submarine.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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