The annual multilateral military drill named “Cobra Gold” hosted by Thailand and the US kicked off in Thailand’s northern province of Phitsanulok on February 11.

Armed forces from Thailand, the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are participating in the 33 rd exercise, which is scheduled to end on February 21.

Besides, at least 20 other nations, including China, Myanmar and the UK, have also sent their observers to this year’s drill.

More than 13,000 servicemen will be taking part in exercise activities, focusing on humanitarian relief in case of crises and natural disasters.

According to defence officers, “Cobra Gold 2014” is designed to enhance security and effectively deal with crises in Asia-Pacific through multinational forces from nations that share common goals and security commitments.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the US Pacific Command, said this is one of the largest and most important multilateral exercises in which the US participates.

With field exercises and live ammunition events, this year’s drill will help participating countries ready themselves to cope with common challenges and consolidate mutual understanding and trust.

Cobra Gold began in 1982 as a bilateral military exercise between Thailand and the US. It developed into a multilateral affair in 2000 when Singapore was invited to join the annual drill.-VNA