Trump-Prayut Meet at the White House to Seal Thai-US Normalisation
Thailand's junta chief Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha hopes for warmer ties with the U.S. as he meets with President Donald Trump on Monday in Washington, marking his first visit to the White House since wresting power in a 2014.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was greeted at the South Portico by Trump and first lady Melania Trump as he arrived for talks and a working lunch.
The administration of former President Barack Obama had shunned Thailand's unelected military regime, but relations may be changing as Trump increasingly reaches out to Asian nations for support over escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
As noted by Nikkei Asia Review, Washington is ready to call on Bangkok to increase its role in regional security, and may ask for more sanctions against the rogue nation, such as shutting down North Korean businesses that are still operating in Thailand.
In a White House statement released on Sept. 26 after Prayuth's visit was officially confirmed, Trump said he "looks forward to reaffirming the relationship between the United States and a key partner and longstanding ally in Asia."
Meanwhile, junta spokesperson Werachon Sukhondhapatipak told reporters in Bangkok that the meeting will enable the two countries "to push further a strategic partnership for mutual benefits."
"We've had a long and very storied history with Thailand," Trump said in the Oval Office alongside Prayuth, as quoted by ABC News.
He referred to a nearly two-century diplomatic relationship, which the president said has advanced since he took office in January.
"So we have a very strong relationship right now, as of this moment, and it's getting stronger in the last nine months," he said, stressing the importance of trade ties, which totaled $40 billion last year, with the U.S. running a $19 billion deficit.
"I think we're going to try and sell a little bit more to you now, make that a little bit better if that's possible," he added.