As China circles, US-Thai military friendship stumbles

Perturbed by Thailand’s coup, the United States has scaled back a showpiece joint military exercise with its Southeast Asian ally, but analysts say that with China circling for influence, Washington will not push the kingdom’s generals too far.

Famed for its jungle bonding sessions where US and Thai soldiers down snake blood, the annual “Cobra Gold” event is the crown jewel of Thailand’s decades-long strategic alliance with the US.

But this year’s edition, which started on Monday, has been slimmed down, as Washington recalibrates the level of military support it is willing to show for a country under junta rule — and martial law — since last May. Continue reading