A US soldier drinks the blood of a freshly beheaded cobra, during initiation for the Cobra Gold exercises. Credit: US MARINE CORPS.

Cobra Gold 2020 beckons, and China will be well represented this year, Global Times reported.

The Chinese military has arrived in Thailand and will participate in the largest joint military exercise in Southeast Asia, which will be led by Thailand and the US, starting Tuesday, the report said.

An elite team of 25 soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) 75th Group Army arrived in Thailand on Sunday via a transport aircraft of the PLA Air Force, the PLA Daily reported.

The annual Cobra Gold series joint drills has become the largest joint military exercise in Southeast Asia, and this year’s edition will run from Tuesday to March 6 in Thailand, the report said.

Jointly hosted by Thailand and the US, the drills will feature high-level forums, amphibious landing exercises, humanitarian construction and disaster relief drills, China News Service reported.

The Chinese team will participate in desktop maneuvers, actual combat exercises, humanitarian construction and high-level forums, said Sun Zhi, leader of the Chinese team, according to the report.

By participating in the 2020 Cobra Gold, China is eagerly participating in defense cooperation with neighboring regions, which will enhance communication with Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, providing Chinese solutions and power in humanitarian relief operations, Sun said.

More than 8,900 soldiers and officers from 29 countries will join the drills.

The US is expected to send 5,500 personnel and 64 fighter jets including the F-35 Stealth fighter jet for the first time, as well as an amphibious assault ship and an amphibious landing dock, foreign media reports said.

China has been sending observers to the annual exercises since 2002 and participating in the drills since 2014.

Meanwhile, additional medical personnel and supplies will be on hand to guard against the virus called Covid-19 when Cobra Gold 2020 begins, Stars & Stripes reported.

The World Health Organization on Sunday reported 35 cases of the virus in Thailand, according to its website.

At last year’s Cobra Gold, US soldiers drank blood from cobras and water from the trunks of banana trees, survival skills their hosts taught them, Stars & Stripes reported.

Thai instructors shared with the Americans their knowledge of food and water sources in the jungle. Drinking the still-warm blood of the namesake reptile is more than a show of bravado; it’s a life-sustaining measure.

A Royal Thai Marine handles two live cobras in front of troops participating in Cobra Gold. Credit: KENNY NUNEZ/U.S. MARINE CORPS.

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