Senior delegations representing Thailand and the United States met on December 16, 2015 in Bangkok at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand for the Fifth U.S.-Thailand Strategic Dialogue. Permanent Secretary Apichart Chinwanno led the Thailand delegation, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel led the U.S. delegation. As long-time treaty allies, the United States and Thailand reaffirmed their shared commitment to promoting peace, security, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
Recognizing Thailand’s regional leadership role and the United States’ vital contributions to peace and stability, the two sides engaged in a comprehensive discussion of issues within Southeast Asia and across the broader Asia-Pacific region.
The United States reaffirmed its support for ASEAN centrality in the Asia-Pacific regional architecture. The two sides discussed ways to enhance their cooperation in regional frameworks, including the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), the East Asia Summit (EAS), and the ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership, with a view to tackling common challenges as well as contributing to greater stability and prosperity of the region. Both sides recognized Thailand’s active engagement in the LMI and look forward to enhancing cooperation under the framework in the areas of education, energy, public health, science and technology, innovation, and women’s empowerment. The two delegations underscored the importance of coordinating assistance in the region and of supporting Lao People’s Democratic Republic 2016 ASEAN Chairmanship. The U.S. delegation noted that President Barack Obama looks forward to hosting leaders from all ten ASEAN nations, including Thailand, at the ASEAN-U.S. Special Summit early next year.
The two sides reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability, ensuring maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation, including in and over-flight above the South China Sea. The delegations noted the need to avoid the militarization of the disputed areas. The two sides also reaffirmed their support for on-going efforts by ASEAN and China to fully and effectively implement the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety, and to work toward the expeditious conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct (COC).
On bilateral issues, both sides affirmed their enduring treaty alliance and the strategic importance of their relations. The two delegations discussed ways to further strengthen and expand areas of cooperation, including public health workforce development, medical research, creative economy, prevention and suppression of trafficking in persons and forced labor, law enforcement cooperation, and training through the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), as well as trade and investment.
The two sides reaffirmed the value of Thailand-U.S. defense cooperation and look forward to continuing to implement the 2012 Joint Vision Statement by strengthening cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, global peacekeeping, and military medical research, among other defense engagements. The United States welcomed Thailand’s pledge at President Obama’s September 2015 Peacekeeping Summit to contribute civil development, engineering, and medical teams to future United Nations peacekeeping missions, and looks forward to continuing to work with Thailand as feasible on capacity building and training of peacekeepers from regional countries through Thailand’s Peacekeeping Operation Centre. The two sides also look forward to resuming their Defense Strategic Talks at the earliest opportunity.
Furthermore, the two sides also identified practical ways to expand their comprehensive partnership to benefit their respective countries, the region, and beyond. In particular, Thailand and the United States agreed to hold the first Joint Commission Meeting under their bilateral Science and Technology Agreement in Thailand in the first half of 2016. The two countries look forward to expanding trade and investment ties and agreed to hold the next round of talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as soon as possible in 2016. The United States recognized Thailand’s leadership in the area of public health. Both sides are committed to working together to detect, prevent, and respond to infectious disease threats and address public health challenges through both bilateral and multilateral mechanisms. The two delegations noted that a five-year plan is being developed to achieve the targets of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). They also agreed to explore the possibility of establishing a bilateral public health coordination mechanism.
The two governments recognized the importance of education and people-to-people connectivity. In line with President Obama’s priorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, the two sides discussed future bilateral cooperation and the co-organization of a regional STEM workshop in 2016. The two governments pledged their recommitment to the Thailand-U.S. Creative Partnership, launched at the 2010 U.S.-Thailand Strategic Dialogue, which identifies new opportunities for collaborative ingenuity between the two countries.
Recognizing Thailand’s efforts and contributions in addressing global challenges, the two sides also discussed enhanced cooperation on climate change; disease prevention and control; irregular migration and human trafficking; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; peacekeeping; and counterterrorism. The two sides welcomed the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit.
The delegations discussed current political developments in Thailand and the country’s commitment to implementing comprehensive reforms and a return to sustainable democracy. Both sides also affirmed the importance of promoting universal human rights and humanitarian cooperation.
Looking forward, the two sides welcomed continued robust, candid exchanges on these and other issues and a continued exchange of visits in the future. The two sides agreed to hold the Sixth U.S.-Thailand Strategic Dialogue in the United States in 2016.