Foreign minister defends NASA´s use of U-Tapao

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BANGKOK, 18 June 2012  -The Foreign Affairs Minister has reiterated that the United States’ request to use U-Tapao naval base is strictly for atmospheric studies’ purposes and does not breach national sovereignty. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul said that the prime minister’s meeting with the country’s top military commanders today in Chonburi province is aimed at discussing the NASA’s request to use the naval base, which has been seen by critics as threatening Thailand’s territorial sovereignty

Nasa had earlier sought the government’s approval for its proposed use of the base for disaster relief operations and for a climate study for two months. Mr Surapong elaborated that officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology would accompany the US space agency’s research teams in conducting the studies and establishing a weather-monitoring centre.

According to NASA’s plan, the airport will also serve as a humanitarian relief centre. Following Thailand’s tsunami disaster in 2004, the Foreign Minister said Thailand is in need of such facility.

The matter will be tabled for further deliberation at the cabinet meeting tomorrow.

Mr Surapong also insisted that the agency’s plan to set up a base at U-Tapao will not lead to China distrusting Thailand.