06 April 2015
Yuan class submarine (photo : Militaryphotos)
Prawit off to China to build defence ties
Defence Ministry spokesman Maj Gen Kongcheep Tuntrawanich said on Sunday the minister's trip will last from Wednesday to Friday and comes at the invitation of China's Defence Minister Chang Wanquan.
It is his second visit to China in six months and the third meeting between the two ministers.
Gen Prawit went to China in October and Gen Chang returned the favour by coming to Bangkok in February to propose closer military ties between the two countries. Relations between Thailand and China have been strengthened since the military coup last year when Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha took over as Thailand's leader.
This time Gen Prawit will take with him all military commanders, including navy chief ADM Kraisorn Chansuwanich, to China for the first time.
A ministry source said the two countries are expected to hold talks on the Thai plan to re-equip the Royal Thai Navy fleet with two diesel-engine submarines after the last fleet was decommissioned in 1951.
The budget for the modernisation of the navy is around 36 billion baht.
The Yuan Class submarine is on Thailand's possible purchasing list. Other potential sellers of underwater craft are Germany and South Korea.
The navy renewed a push to buy two submarines late last year with strong support from the defence minister, and China has offered its version with financing which could be repaid in 10 years.
Gen Prawit and Gen Chang will seek plans to foster defence ties by holding more joint exercises between their army, navy and air force which now are held separately twice a year, the source said.
The defence minister will meet ACM Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese Deputy Premier Zhang Gaoli and Meng Jianzhu, a politburo member.