US, Thailand kick off 'Cobra Gold' war games

Bangkok: The head of the US Pacific Command on Tuesday inaugurated the Cobra Gold military exercises in Thailand with an appeal to the country's military junta, in power since 2014, to re-establish democracy.Speaking during the opening ceremony held at a military base southeast of Bangkok in Sahattip, Chonburi province, Admiral Harry Harris said the US wants a democratic, strong and stable Thailand. "We need Thailand to get back to being the regional and global leader that it always has been," said Harris, according to an Internet broadcast published on the Cobra Gold website.In a statement to journalists after the inauguration, Harris said he wished to hold meaningful talks with Thai authorities during his stay in the country.Harris, the highest ranking US military officer to visit Thailand since the 2014 military coup, is scheduled to meet Thai Prime Minister and Junta chief Prayut Chan-ocha during his stay, Efe news reported.This year's edition of the Cobra Gold will have 29 countries attending as both participants and observers for the 11-day exercises, seminars and programmes dedicated to strengthening regional cooperation.Participants include Thailand with 4,350 personnel, the US (3,528), Japan (192), Malaysia (99), Singapore (56), South Korea (46), Indonesia (34), China (14) and India (13).