China sends fighter planes to Thailand for joint exercises

China sends fighter planes to Thailand for joint exercises

The Chinese Air Force is sending fighter planes and bombers to Thailand for a joint exercise with the Thai army on Sunday.

The Chinese Ministry of Defense said in a statement posted on its website that the exercises will include air support, strikes on land targets, and deployment of forces on a small and large scale.

The expansion of Chinese military activities in Asia has alarmed the United States and its allies. It is part of the 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 "the unparalleled network of US alliances and partnerships" in the region.

The Falcon Strike exercise will take place at the Royal Thai Air Force's Udorn Base in northern Thailand near the border with Laos. Thai combat aircraft and airborne early warning 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 since it began in 2009.

It also comes on the heels of China sending warships, missiles, and planes into the waters and air around Taiwan in a threat to retaliate for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the self-governing island, which China claims as its territory.

Kurt Campbell, President Joe Biden's chief Indo-Pacific adviser, said Friday that the United States would take decisive steps to support Taiwan, including sending warships and aircraft through the 160-kilometer (100-mile) waterway separating Taiwan from China.

"We will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, consistent with our longstanding commitment to freedom of navigation," he said in a call with reporters. This includes conducting standard air and sea transit through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks.

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