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Southeast Asia, Gulf nations draw closer as U.S.-China row deepens

Caught in a tug-of-war, 'middle powers' seek to balance security, economic gains

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in Riyadh on Jan. 25.    © Reuters

TOKYO -- Thailand and Saudi Arabia are rapidly filling a diplomatic void that lasted over 30 years.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia in January, restoring diplomatic ties that had been virtually severed since 1990. Other Thai cabinet ministers followed suit, with Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn visiting the kingdom in March, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in May and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit in August, all accompanied by business representatives.

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