April 4, 2017 / 9:40 AM / 5 months ago

Thailand approves purchase of Chinese tanks to replace old U.S. model

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The Thai cabinet on Tuesday approved the purchase of 10 Chinese tanks worth $58 million to replace an old U.S. model, a government spokesman said, the second of three planned purchases of 49 tanks from China.

Thailand ordered 28 tanks from China last year.

"These tanks will replace the M41 tanks, which are small and old," Sansern Kaewkamnerd told reporters.

Thailand has used the U.S. M41 light tanks since World War II, said Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.

Relations have been strengthening between China and the United States' oldest ally in Southeast Asia, particularly since ties with the United States cooled after a 2014 coup.

In January, the cabinet also approved 13.5 billion baht ($380 million) to buy a submarine from China and is considering buying three more.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has boasted of his new friendship with China as he has talked down the relationship with the United States, despite a longstanding territorial dispute with Beijing.

A U.S. Navy aid unit has also been told to leave Cambodia, the U.S. embassy said, in a new sign of the country loosening links with Washington as it strengthens ties with Beijing.

Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Nick Macfie

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