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Thai leader emphasizes equal distance from Japan, China

TOKYO -- Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Monday stressed that Thailand seeks equal diplomatic relationships with Japan and China, dismissing concerns that Beijing is quickly cozying up to the junta.

     Speaking with The Nikkei, Prayuth said his current trip was aimed at "encouraging greater economic cooperation and investment in Thailand." He added that he hoped to pass Bangkok's special relationship with Tokyo to a democratic government. The military junta is planning a general election as early as the end of the year, which would return ruling power to a civilian government.

     Japan is responsible for 60% of total direct foreign investment in Thailand, making it the biggest spender there. China is also angling for stronger ties with the provisional government through investment promises, among other offers.

     Prayuth also called for understanding from the U.S. government, which so far remains critical of the junta. Daniel Russel, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in January after the impeachment of former leader Yingluck Shinawatra that "the international community is left with the impression that these steps could be politically driven."

     "I was surprised by his words," Prayuth said in the interview, adding that the U.S. "does not understand our efforts to maintain political stability." He emphasized that his government will address any questions or concerns from the international community.


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