Monsoon Rain Greets Rumsfeld in Thailand
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
BANGKOK, Thailand, June 5, 2005 In a driving monsoon rain, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived here today after spending the weekend at a regional-security conference in Singapore.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld meets with Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Bangkok, Thailand, June 6. Rumsfeld is in Thailand to strengthen U.S.-Thai relationships following a three-day International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Conference in Singapore. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld will meet with Thai leaders to discuss security cooperation in the region and to thank the Thai government for facilitating multilateral cooperation in disaster-relief operations following the Dec. 26 tsunami that devastated a large swath of the area surrounding the Indian Ocean.
"From time to time, some question the priority America places on its Pacific partnerships," Rumsfeld said in a June 4 speech at the Asia Security Conference, known as the "Shangri-La Dialogue," in Singapore. "Yet the atmosphere in the tsunami's aftermath ... demonstrated again that whenever friends and allies in this region confront threats or hardship, whether caused by man or nature, we stand at their side."
As of late March, Thai government statistics put the number of dead from this country at 5,395, with 8,457 injuries and 2,932 still missing.
"Thailand, despite its own casualties and tragedy, quickly consented to the use of its bases to serve as the combined support facilities for the relief efforts," the secretary said in his speech.
A senior defense official, speaking on background about a week before Rumsfeld's departure for Asia, said the regional response and international cooperation in the area surrounding the tsunami validated theater security cooperation efforts that had been under way in the region for several years.
Close cooperation in training and in brainstorming possible scenarios for cooperation allowed the United States and several countries in the region to set up a joint task force at Utapao, Thailand, within two days after the disaster.
"And it functioned better than anyone could imagine," the official said. "It validated that what we were doing was right, and we probably should have been doing it more aggressively."
After his visit to Thailand, Rumsfeld will travel to Norway to visit a NATO training facility in Stavanger, and to Brussels, Belgium, where he will attend a meeting of NATO defense ministers