RT @DavidNakamura: Photo: Pres. Obama waves goodbye to Washington as he boards AF1 for four-day Asia
The following is the press briefing on board Air Force One. They are expected to arrive in Thailand at about 2pm-3pm
MR. CARNEY: Welcome aboard Air Force One as we begin our very long journey eastward. I have with me Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications. Ben will do a little preview for you of the trip to come and take questions on the trip.
MR. RHODES: Obviously our first stop is in Thailand. As we said the other day, we felt it was very important to begin this trip by visiting a U.S. ally. Allies are the cornerstone of our rebalancing effort in Asia. And Thailand is actually the oldest treaty ally of the United States, an ally since 1954 and a key partner in Southeast Asia.
So it was very important for us to send a signal to the region that allies are going to continue to be the foundation of our approach. I think in Thailand we’ll be focused on a set of issues to include counter-proliferation, nonproliferation. We’ve been working with the Thais to deal with how to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For instance, the Thais successfully interdicted a shipment from North Korea that was bound for Hamas — not a WMD shipment, but again, smuggling and weaponry. So we’ll be focused on nonproliferation, counter-piracy. We do a lot of work with the Thais on disaster relief. Obviously they had the tragic tsunami there several years ago.
We’ll also be focused on the economic relations between our two countries, and our efforts at ASEAN and the EAS, where Thailand is of course an important member. And so we can get into those issues later, but the President will be having a bilat with the Prime Minister.
Picture of Air Force One refuelling in Germany at 3:40am. Next stop Bangkok (Pic @DavidNakamura)
Just to take you through the schedule, we’ll get there, we’ll go to Wat Pho, which is one of the iconic cultural sites in Bangkok. Then the President will have an audience with the King of Thailand, the longest-serving monarch in the world, actually, and a very important figure in the Thai system, also someone who was born in the United States, in Massachusetts, but then became King in 1946. I want to make sure you guys have some good facts here on Thailand.
Q Is he an American citizen?
MR. RHODES: We were asking that question. I’m not entirely sure, but he was born in Massachusetts so it would make sense. But of course he’s led Thailand as King for over half a century. After that royal audience, we will proceed to the Government House. There will be an arrival ceremony. The President will have the bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister; then they’ll do a joint press conference, and then she’ll host him at a dinner tonight.
And then early tomorrow morning of course the President will make history by becoming the first U.S. President to visit Burma when we fly into Rangoon tomorrow morning.
Q I have two quick questions about Thailand. One is he’s going to see the King, who is obviously not in good health right now. There’s a speculation that when the King dies it will be — create some instability in the country. Is that something the U.S. or the President is concerned about looking forward?
MR. RHODES: I’d just two things. It is true that the King has been an extraordinary figure in Thai history and has been the source of unity for the people of Thailand. Thailand also of course has an elected government. And one of the purposes of our engagement with Thailand is to reinforce the strength of their democratic institutions. They’ve had their own challenges in recent years — in defining a military’s role, for instance, in their political system. We have close relationships with the — across the Thai government and across the Thai military. And what we want to do is strengthen Thai democracy by, again, investing our relationships in the institutions that they’re building — or the democratic institutions that they’re building so that whatever challenge emerges, Thailand’s democracy is strong enough to weather those challenges.
Full text: http://gretawire.foxnewsinsider.com/2012/11/17/press-gaggle-from-air-force-one-en-route-to-bangkok-thailand/