American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2011 – Defense officials are carefully monitoring the situation in Thailand as that nation faces the worst flooding it’s had in more than 50 years.
Recent flooding across Thailand has killed more than 360 people, and more than 2.5 million people have been affected, Thai government officials said.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who is traveling in Asia, has expressed serious concern about the disaster, said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, who is with Panetta’s traveling party.
The defense secretary “offers his deepest condolences to all those who have suffered as a result,” Little said in a written statement. “The secretary is closely monitoring the situation, and applauds the Thai government’s quick response to this major natural disaster. Thailand is a close ally, and we will continue to work with Thai officials to assess what they may need in the form of assistance from the United States.”
When the flooding started, U.S. Pacific Command ordered the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, which was conducting a port visit to Singapore, to get underway earlier than scheduled to pre-position in case assistance was required. The command sent a 10-Marine humanitarian assistance survey team from Okinawa, Japan, to Bangkok, Thailand, to assess the situation in the country.
After meeting with Thai officials, the team determined that U.S. military assistance was not needed.
“The Thai government and military have led a tremendous effort to protect and help its citizens during the recent flooding,” Pentagon officials said.
The Navy ships have been released to participate in a previously scheduled annual exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, Pentagon officials said. The destroyer USS Mustin now plans a previously unscheduled port visit to Laem Chabang, Thailand, to conduct community service events and military-to-military engagements.
Pacific Command officials are working with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok to determine if U.S. military assets are needed to support the Thais.