China, Thailand hold joint naval drill, promote military cooperation
Published: Sep 03, 2023 09:53 PM
A submarine attached to a naval submarine flotilla under the PLA Northern Theater Command steams in the sea during a training exercise recently in waters of the Yellow Sea. Photo: China Military

A submarine attached to a naval submarine flotilla under the PLA Northern Theater Command steams in the sea during a training exercise recently in waters of the Yellow Sea. Photo: China Military

The navies of China and Thailand are holding a joint exercise closely following joint drills by the armies and air forces of the two countries, and experts said on Sunday that these consecutive interactions will promote military cooperation, with a latest example being the Thai navy chief's approval of the use of a Chinese engine in a China-Thailand submarine deal.

The China-Thailand Blue Strike-2023 joint naval training exercise is scheduled to be held from Sunday to September 10 in the upper Gulf of Thailand and a marine camp in Sattahip, the Bangkok Post reported on Saturday.

With the aim of enhancing the participating forces' training level and interoperability, boosting the two navies' pragmatic cooperation and elevating the capability in jointly dealing with regional security threats, the training exercise will feature subjects including sniping tactics, jungle survival, maritime search and rescue as well as cross-deck helicopter landings, said Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson, at a regular press conference on Thursday.

It marks the fifth edition of the Blue Strike bilateral naval exercises held since 2010.

Chinese forces participating in the exercise, including the Type 071 comprehensive landing ship Simingshan, the Type 054A guided missile frigate Anyang, the Type 903A comprehensive replenishment ship Chaohu, a Marine Corps unit and a vessel-borne helicopter unit, arrived at the Port of Sattahip in Thailand on Thursday, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) East Sea Fleet said in a press release that same day.

A Chinese Type 039 conventional attack submarine also arrived in Sattahip, according to Thai media reports.

According to the report from the Bangkok Post, shortly before the joint exercise, Thai navy chief Admiral Choengchai Chomchoengpaet said on Friday that he had approved the use of the Chinese-made CHD620 engine as a substitute for a German-made one for an S26T Yuan-class submarine being assembled in China.

The approval came after a long period of inspection, and it shows that the Thai Navy has recognized that the Chinese engine's performance is not inferior to its German counterpart, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The original German engine was substituted because of US pressure on Germany not to provide the engine, Song said.

With the participation of the Type 039 submarine in the joint exercise, the Thai Navy can better understand the Chinese submarine's capabilities and further promote its export, Song said, noting that the S26T is developed based on the Type 039.

Thailand is a user of many Chinese defense products, including a Type 071 comprehensive landing ship, VN16 amphibious armored vehicles, VN1 wheeled armored vehicles and VT4 main battle tanks

Just before the naval drill, armies of the two countries wrapped up the 18-day Strike-2023 joint training exercise in Thailand on Friday, the PLA Southern Theater Command said in a press release later that day.

The two countries' air forces also held the 21-day Falcon Strike-2023 joint air combat drill in Thailand in July.

Close, consecutive interactions between the Chinese and Thai militaries enhance mutual trust, deepen traditional friendship and boost joint operational capabilities, experts said.

At a time when the US is rallying the Philippines and stirring trouble in the South China Sea, Thailand, a special country that maintains close relations with both the US and China and also an ASEAN member, could act as a bridge that balances and eases the situation, analysts said.