Trump hails stronger Thailand ties as he meets junta leader

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday hailed strengthening relations with Thailand on Monday as he welcomed to the White House the prime minister of America’s oldest ally in Asia.

Prayuth and his wife, Naraporn Chan-ocha, were greeted at the South Portico by Trump and first lady Melania Trump as the Thai leader arrived for talks.

The visit came three years after Prayuth seized power in a coup, and days after the elected leader whose government he ousted was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.


‘‘We’ve had a long and very storied history with Thailand,’’ Trump said in the Oval Office alongside Prayuth, referring to a nearly two-century diplomatic relationship, which the president said has advanced since he took office in January.

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‘‘So we have a very strong relationship right now, as of this moment, and it’s getting stronger in the last nine months,’’ he said, stressing the importance of trade ties, which totaled $40 billion last year. ‘‘I think we’re going to try and sell a little bit more to you now, make that a little bit better if that’s possible.’’

He also said the two nations would work closely on ‘‘regional issues of concern.’’

‘‘I am confident that with the president’s leadership we will be able to tackle all those problems,’’ he said.

Human rights groups have opposed the visit of Prayuth. He took power in 2014 to restore order after violent political turmoil in Thailand. The unrest has abated, but the junta has squelched dissent and dragged its feet on holding elections in what was once one of the most vibrant democracies in Asia. Political parties are restricted and elections are not expected before 2018.