February 7, 2012 (TSR) – The US-led annual multinational exercise Cobra Gold 2012, the largest such military endeavor in the Asia-Pacific to date, is due to start in Thailand on Tuesday.
The 10-day exercise, which will involve around 13,000 military personnel from 17 nations, is designed to advance regional security among “nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific”, according to the US military.
Full participating nations include Thailand, the US, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Australia, France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Italy, India, Nepal, the Philippines and Vietnam will also take part in the drill’s multinational planning augmentation team.
This year’s Cobra Gold, the 31st such event, is a regular Thailand-hosted exercise that has shifted from its initial focus against the Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War to safeguarding Washington’s interests in the Far East and Southeast Asia, said Li Daguang, a military specialist at the University of National Defense in Beijing.
“(Washington’s) effort through the maneuvers is aimed at unifying countries (in the region) around itself. While this definitely runs counter to China’s interests in the long term, the exercise itself is not specifically – at least not explicitly – targeted at China,” he said.
Shi Aiguo, an international politics professor at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, earlier said the US had used Cobra Gold exercises to reach out to countries such as India, Vietnam and Myanmar.
A senior Thai army officer was quoted by Japan’s Kyodo News as saying last week that Myanmar had expressed an interest in joining the annual exercises in the future.
Live-fire training, noncombatant evacuation exercises and a computer-simulated command-post exercise will be featured at this year’s drills, the US Marines said in a statement. Humanitarian and civic assistance projects will also be part of the exercises.
Thailand, Washington’s oldest ally in the Asia-Pacific, will send some 3,400 military personnel to the exercises.
The People’s Liberation Army sent observers to the exercises in 2003. It was not immediately clear if the Chinese military was invited to observe this year.
Cobra Gold is Washington’s longest-standing military exercise in the Pacific. About 7,000 of the 13,000 forces involved in the drill are from the US military, the majority of them from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.