BEIJING : Thailand and China have agreed to jointly develop multiple rocket launchers with a guidance system as part of a move to strengthen military ties.
The two sides reached the agreement during a visit to China by the Thai military top brass in what was described by Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat as a call by "the whole family" to China which is "our close relative".
It is the first time in 15 years that a defence minister has led all key military leaders ranging from the defence permanent secretary, supreme commander and armed forces chiefs to meet Chinese senior military officers, led by National Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie.
Under the new agreement, the Thai Defence Technology Institute will work with China to develop new multiple rocket launchers called "DTI-1G [Guided]" which will be more accurate and have a greater range than existing systems, said ACM Sukumpol after the meeting.
Multiple rocket launchers are known for their devastating capabilities and ability to deliver a large amount of ordinance simultaneously, but are not recognised for precision because they are not usually equipped with a guidance system.
In an earlier joint deal, Thailand and China developed the DTI-1 system, which had a range of between 60 and 180km, but it lacked accuracy.
The new DTI-1G project will last three years and will be funded under a 1.5-billion-baht budget, ACM Sukumpol said.
Gen Liang also told the delegation that if Thailand wants to buy weapons from China, it will be willing to sell them at "friendly prices", ACM Sukumpol quoted Gen Liang as saying."The price of Chinese weaponry has increased greatly recently. Arms are not as cheap as before so we will have to consider this carefully," ACM Sukumpol said.
As well as technological cooperation, the Thai and Chinese defence ministries have also agreed to hold a joint military exercise involving their air forces for the first time.
"We will need to discuss more details of this because Thailand and China have different military doctrines in the aviation area," ACM Sukumpol said.
So far the two countries have held joint military drills involving the army's special warfare units and the navy's marine corps.
In another demonstration of closer military ties, 130 officers from the Royal Thai Navy Corps will participate in a joint exercise to be held in Guangdong in southern China between May 9 and 29.