The President of the United States has been invited to visit Thailand on his trip to attend the East Asia Summit in Cambodia at the end of 2012.
Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Director-General of the Department of Information and Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that the United States had also invited the Prime Minister of Thailand to visit the United States. The dates of both visits are being discussed by both countries.
The statement came after he had been asked about the status of the scientific research project of the United States National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) on the Southeast Asia Composition, Cloud, and Climate Coupling Regional Study, which had requested the use of U-tapao naval air base in Thailand to launch the mission.
Mr. Thani said that NASA had cancelled the planned project as it had not yet received approval from the Thai government and that there remained insufficient time to launch the mission within the appropriate timeframe this year.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed by the Embassy of the United States of America that, should Thailand be unable to approve the proposed mission by 26 June 2012, NASA, while understanding the difficulties and sensitivities faced, would regrettably have to cancel the mission due to insufficient time to prepare for the scientific study.
As to whether or not the proposed project would be conducted in the future, Mr. Thani said that this would have to be discussed further. Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in a press conference that the NASA project would increase the role of Thailand in meteorology and science and climate-related issues at the international level and that Thailand was chosen for the launching of the mission was due to its strategic location as a hub of ASEAN.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pointed out that a joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate would deliberate the request of the United States on the issue, saying that Parliament is the appropriate mechanism to conclude the matter.
Parliament will reconvene in its ordinary session in August. U-tapao naval air base is located in the eastern province of Rayong, about 190 kilometers from Bangkok.
The Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that Thai-US relations remained close and cordial. He said that the United States understood and respected the decision of the Thai government. Both sides would continue to cooperate in other projects in various areas.
The United States is one of Thailand’s most important markets, and Thailand looks to the United States as a strategic partner.