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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Trump military parade: Plans 'under way'

General Joe Dunford is the first senior military official to publicly address the US president's long-standing wish for a large-scale military parade

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are seen here with French President Emmanuel Macron during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2017. Christophe Archambault / AFP
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are seen here with French President Emmanuel Macron during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2017. Christophe Archambault / AFP

The US military's top officer said on Wednesday that planning is under way after president Donald Trump ordered a military parade, an unconventional demand that has drawn comparisons to the sabre rattling of 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 Bangkok.

Gen Dunford is the first senior US military official to publicly address Mr Trump's long-standing wish for a large-scale military parade, which the White House confirmed on 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 HW Bush held a National Victory Parade in Washington to celebrate the end of the Gulf War.

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Mr 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.

Gen 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 Gen 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," Gen 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.

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.

Gen Dunford later said he was "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.