BANGKOK: The US military's top officer said Wednesday that planning is under way after President Donald Trump ordered a military parade, an unconventional demand that has drawn comparisons to sabre rattling more commonly associated with autocrats.
"I am aware of the president's request and we are in the initial planning stages to meet the president's direction," General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a visit to the Thai capital Bangkok.
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Dunford is the first top US military official to publicly address Trump's longstanding wish for a large-scale military parade, which the White House confirmed Tuesday.
The general did not address a question on whether it would be a good use of military resources.
The United States normally holds military parades to mark the end of conflicts, such as in 1991 when President George H.W. Bush held a National Victory Parade in Washington to celebrate the end of the Gulf War.
Trump's request may well be popular among many Americans but has drawn scorn from critics, who said it would be a waste of money and was akin to events organised by authoritarian regimes.
Dunford's visit to junta-ruled Thailand is part of a week-long tour of the US military's enormous Pacific Command area.
He met his Thai counterpart Tarnchaiyan Srisuwan, as well as Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the leader of the junta.
After a hiatus following the 2014 coup, relations between Washington and Bangkok have resumed and Dunford said he looked forward to a continuing military-to-military relationship.
"They (Thailand) have been a good, strong partner for a long time. Our overall strength globally, but in particular in the Pacific, is our network of allies and partners. And so Thailand is an important part of that overall network," Dunford told reporters travelling with him.
The praise was offered despite the junta's recent postponement of a November 2018 election date which the junta chief announced after a White House visit in October.
The US has consistently urged the generals to follow through on a promised return to democracy.
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But they have repeatedly let the poll timeline slip and maintained a tight lid on dissent, with bans on politics and protests of any kind.
Dunford later said in a statement that he is "very encouraged by the Thai leadership's commitment to return to a democratic government."
"This would allow us to deepen our relationship in the years ahead," he said.
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