US defense secretary meets Thai PM

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has met with the prime minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-o-cha.

During Monday's meeting, the two sides exchanged views on regional security issues including Myanmar and the South China Sea, and how to strengthen bilateral ties.

The meeting is seen as a part of US attempts to emphasize the importance it places on the region.
Austin expressed America's desire to support the modernization of the Thai defense forces.

They also discussed resuming the Cobra Gold military exercises next year on a full scale. The joint drills have been downsized over the past two years because of the pandemic.

Prior to visiting Thailand, Austin attended the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore which brought together the defense chiefs of Asia-Pacific states among other people. There he met with his Southeast Asian counterparts and reiterated the US commitment to deepening ties with ASEAN.
He also expressed interest in expanding maritime cooperation with the bloc in light of China's growing activities in the South China Sea.

Beijing criticized Washington, saying it is trying to hijack countries in the region to form an exclusive group, and create confrontation.