Beijing: Thailand has held back a USD 1.06 billion deal to buy three submarines from China due to the pressure from the US, Chinese experts have said, alleging that America does not want to see closer ties between the two countries.
"The relationship with the US is an important factor contributing to Thailand's decision, though not necessarily the major one," Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, told state-run Global Times reacting to Bangkok's move to put off the deal.
"It is clear that the US definitely does not want to see any closer cooperation between China and Thailand, especially in terms of military and defence," Li said, adding that from the perspective of foreign relations, it is understandable and predictable that Thailand considers its relationship with the US as a "very important diplomatic priority".
In recent years China has made forays into Thailand, regarded as a staunch US ally with loans and aid for infrastructure.
Last year's military coup in Thailand strained Thai-US relations.
The emerging close ties between Thailand and China made Thailand to deport 109 Uyghur Muslim immigrants from China despite US criticism.
Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said that the acquisition was put on hold while the navy re-considered the role of the vessels and their cost.
"For now, the navy must inform itself and educate itself on whether the submarines are worth it and how much they will add to the Thai navy," he was quoted as saying by the media in Bangkok.
Thailand earlier planned to buy three submarines from China, which will be the second such deal for Beijing after Pakistan. Recent reports said Pakistan has finalised deal to buy eight Chinese submarines.
Lan Yun, deputy editor-in-chief of the Beijing-based Modern Ships magazine, said that the S-26T Submarine was pitched by China as the most cost-effective model among all the biddings.
"Thailand's defence ministry might not have reached a consensus with its finance ministry on the issue of cost and Thailand is not in urgent need of a submarine," Lan said.
With an Air-Independent Propulsion system, the 2,600-Ton submarine priced USD 355 million was obviously a better choice than the 900-Ton S-210 German submarine, costing around USD 340 million, Lan said.