Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Thailand's "Made in China" U-Boats.
It caused a bit of a stir when, a couple of weeks ago, Thailand announced that it had inked a deal to buy three, diesel-electric submarines from China. Over the past two years the United States has spared no effort to keep the small nations of Asia Pacific aligned with Washington to the exclusion of Beijing and Thailand was considered fairly reliable. Which is why it seemed odd that Thailand wouldn't be sourcing its submarine needs from the usual suppliers to pro-Western countries - the Germans, the French or the Swedes.
The other shoe dropped during Putin's gala to announce that Pakistan and India were joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Buried in the text was mention that Thailand had signed on for observer partner status, a precursor to full SCO membership. With that, the Thai order for 3-Chinese subs made sense. It seems that the SCO is making inroads into prying America's hold loose from its Asia-Pacific proxy states. Pakistan has also ordered a gaggle of Chinese U-boats.
DefenseNews reports that the Bangkok-Beijing deal threatens America's Asia Pivot.
The sub decision will worsen the drift in Thai-US relations and frustrate the US' rebalance strategy, said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
"It is building into a kind of brinkmanship from Bangkok which will require the US to weigh its values and interests carefully," he said
US criticism might be the prime driver for the turn toward China, Pongsudhirak said.
"Evidently, Thailand's military government has found superpower support in Beijing, as China has embraced Thai generals in both coups in 2006 and 2014," he said. "Having China on its side is hugely important to the Thai military because it confers 'face' and international legitimacy while Western countries generally shunned and downgraded dealings with Thailand."