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Prayut to meet Tillerson for wide-ranging talks in Thailand

Aug 02. 2017
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By WASAMON AUDJARINT
THE NATION

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US SECRETARY of State Rex Tillerson will visit Thailand next week to maintain the momentum of the invitation extended in April by President Donald Trump for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to make an official visit to Washington.

Tillerson is scheduled to meet Prayut on Tuesday with a focus on bilateral talks, including Prayut’s yet-to-be-scheduled visit to the White House, a government source told The Nation yesterday.

The Department of State announced that Tillerson would travel to Manila, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur from Saturday to Wednesday for Asean ministerial meetings and to enhance bilateral ties.

“Secretary Tillerson will travel to Thailand to pay respects to His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and engage Thai officials on the enduring US-Thailand partnership and regional issues,” according to spokesperson Heather Nauert.

The discussions between Prayut and Tillerson are expected to restore bilateral relations as well as make preparations for celebrations of the 200th anniversary of diplomatic ties to be held next year, the source said. 

It should also see progress in arrangements for Prayut’s meeting with Trump following Trump’s invitation made during a phone call in April, he said. 

Prayut’s trip to the US was initially set for late July but has been delayed due to what the Thai government called “unsettling mutual choices of date”.

However, diplomatic sources said Washington wanted to take more time for both leaders to make their meeting produce a meaningful outcome amid changes in regional circumstances due to the problems on the Korean Peninsula and the contentious South China Sea issue. 

Deputy Government spokesperson Lt-General Werachon Sukondhapatipak said recently that while the meeting would surely take place, he could not confirm whether it would happen this year.

The Commerce Ministry, Foreign Ministry and other agencies have been preparing for the talks. Military chiefs have also taken stock of US-made military hardware to inform Prayut ahead of his meeting with Trump.

Prayut planned to discuss issues such as trade and investment, intellectual property, security matters and human trafficking, Werachon added.

Last month, the two countries held the 6th Thailand-US Strategic Dialogue in Washington DC, where delegates discussed stability in the South China Sea, and economic and security cooperation, but failed to produce any concrete outcomes. 

At the Asean talks in Manila, Tillerson will meet with his counterparts to discuss a range of issues including the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, maritime security and counterterrorism, Nauert said.

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