WASHINGTON — Responding to renewed Vietnamese attacks on Cambodian resistance forces in Thailand, the U.S. government announced Wednesday that it has speeded up delivery of artillery, armored vehicles and other weaponry to the Thai army.
"In the face of the difficult challenges confronting Thailand, we would emphasize our firm and strong commitment to Thailand's security and welfare," State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said. "An expedited shipment of U.S. military equipment and supplies is now under way and is expected to arrive in Thailand early in April."
Representatives of the U.S. and Thai governments recently met "to explore ways to further strengthen the logistics relationship between our two countries," Kalb said. "We will be moving ahead with our programs to help strengthen Thailand's ability to defend itself."
He said the latest shipment includes "armored vehicles, artillery and other priority items needed to strengthen the Royal Thai Armed Forces." He provided no additional details.
At the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Donald H. Brownle said the United States had announced in January that it was prepared to expedite shipment of howitzers, armored personnel carriers, tanks and amphibious vehicles to Thailand if the Vietnamese offensive against Cambodian resistance forces spilled over into Thailand. He declined to talk about the shipment now en route.
'Don't Discuss Specifics'
"We don't discuss the specifics in the shipment for the obvious reason that it would tip off the adversaries as to what Thailand will have in its order of battle," he said.
Thai forces launched an air and ground counterattack Wednesday against Vietnamese troops that had crossed the border Tuesday to attack Cambodian refugees opposed to the Vietnamese-installed government in Phnom Penh. The Thai army reported that it killed 60 Vietnamese before driving them back into Cambodia.
Kalb said the United States "strongly condemns these further Vietnamese violations of Thai territory."
"Vietnam's offensive against the Cambodian resistance and the 250,000 Khmer civilians who have sought refuge along the Thai-Cambodian border from Hanoi's occupation of their country belie Hanoi's public claims that it seeks a political solution in Cambodia and improved relations with other countries, including the United States," he said.
Despite the new condemnation of Vietnam, however, Kalb announced that a U.S. delegation, visiting Hanoi this week, reached agreement on additional steps to clear up the status of U.S. servicemen still classed as missing in action in Vietnam.
He said the delegation--led by Richard Childress, a staff member of the National Security Council, and Ann Mills Griffiths, executive secretary of the National League of POW/MIA Families--also visited Laos. It thanked the government there for its cooperation in the recent excavation of the Vietnam War crash site of a U.S. C-130.
Kalb said the U.S. and Vietnamese agreed to increase from four to six per year the regularly scheduled meetings of technical personnel to consider MIA issues and to meet more often than that if additional information is available. In addition, he said, the two sides exchanged views on other methods to accelerate progress on the issue.
"The U.S. delegation visited a B-52 crash site on the outskirts of Hanoi which was recently located . . . but which has not yet been excavated," Kalb said.
The remains of five men believed to be Americans will be turned over to the United States sometime this month, he said.