May 13, 2016 / 10:37 AM / in 2 years

China, Thailand set to hold joint military exercises

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Thailand will hold joint exercises beginning this month, China’s Ministry of Defence said on Friday, in another sign of improving relations since the Thai military seized power in 2014.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (L) listens as China's Premier Li Keqiang (R) speaks during a meeting at the Government House in Bangkok December 19, 2014. REUTERS/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/Pool

Thailand’s military has sought to counterbalance traditionally close ties with the United States by engaging more with China since the May 2014 coup that the United States and other Western countries objected to.

The May 19-June 10 exercises will involve land and sea operations, the ministry said, as well as training in humanitarian relief and maritime transport.

China has rattled nerves in Southeast Asia with its increasingly assertive action in the South China Sea, where it rejects rival claims over parts of the sea by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

Thailand does not have claims in those disputed waters.

Thailand’s relations with the United States have cooled since the military overthrew an elected government two years ago.

The United States has downgraded its military exercises and training with Thailand saying the programs would be restored after a general election. The military government says an election will be held next year.

China is a major investor in Thailand and among the projects the two countries are involved in is a plan to build a rail link from southern China through Laos to Thailand.

Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel

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