The U.S. has "scaled-down" its Asia-Pacific Cobra Gold military exercise for next year in Thailand, because of "the current political situation" after the Thai army seized power in a May coup.

"We have decided to proceed with a refocused, and scaled-down, Cobra Gold 2015 exercise," the American Embassy in Bangkok said in an email response to this reporter's questions about the Pentagon's plans.

"In light of the current political situation, the U.S. government has increased its focus on non-lethal activities, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, with the aim of expanding regional cooperation and coordination in these vital areas," U.S. Embassy Spokesperson Melissa Sweeney said.

Without all the lethal activities staged in previous years, a scaled-down Cobra Gold 2015 will apparently not include the full spectrum of last February's live-fire exercises in Thailand, led by the U.S. Marine Corps on the ground supported by its aircraft units, plus similar training.

"As the premier multilateral exercise in the Asia-Pacific region, Cobra Gold is important to our regional engagement, and to promoting international security cooperation and stability in the region," Ms. Sweeney said.

"Held annually since 1982, Cobra Gold is a Thai-U.S. Co-sponsored joint, and multinational, exercise bringing together more than 20 nations to focus on regional challenges and global security issues," the embassy spokesperson said.

Thailand is a key non-NATO ally of the U.S.

"Many consider the multinational exercise to be not only important military training, but also an instrument of U.S. regional diplomacy," reported the Stars and Stripes, a news outlet authorized by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The next Cobra Gold is expected to be staged in February 2015.

The U.S. welcomed Chinese forces play -- for the first time – a limited role in Cobra Gold 2014, mindful that Thailand is one of the only countries in Southeast Asia that does not have a territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.

While some analysts speculate that Bangkok, Beijing and Washington are now a constantly changing triangle, with China and the US both anxiously wooing Thailand into a diplomatic couple of two-against-one, the Cobra Gold exercise allows all three to examine each other on a pretend battlefield as adversaries, and simultaneously as harmonious colleagues joining forces in a common cause.

"Thailand welcomes China to participate in the Cobra Gold 2015 military exercise," China Military Online, sponsored by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, reported in July.

February's Cobra Gold 2014 involved 13,000 participants from the U.S., Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, including 17 Chinese troops for the first time.

China described its inclusion in 2014 as evidence that Beijing's "regional military impact" cannot be ignored.

China's inclusion in 2014 reflected "Beijing's growing military capability and impact on the region," China Daily reported in February.

It "demonstrates Beijing's warming military ties with Washington," the paper said.

"China's attendance is a ground-breaking move," Du Wenlong, a senior researcher at the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Science, said in February.

"That means the growth of its military capability, and its regional military impact especially, cannot be ignored," Du said, according to China Daily.

China enjoyed "an observer-plus nation" status in 2014 offering a "humanitarian civic assistance team," the U.S. Department of the Army said.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, along with Laos, Vietnam and several other nations were observers.

One week before Cobra Gold 2014, Washington warned Thailand's politicized army not to topple Bangkok's democratically elected civilian government in yet another coup, following the military's successful 2006 putsch.

"We certainly do not want to see a coup or violence," U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in Washington on February 3, responding to journalists' questions about Bangkok's turbulent political situation.

Today, Bangkok tries to put a positive face on its new rocky relations with Washington, and hopes the U.S. will see the coup-installed military regime, which still rules by martial law, as legitimate.

"We explained that we work sincerely," Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula told reporters on October 9 after meeting U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney at Government House in Bangkok.

"After we explained our work, I looked into her eyes and saw that she is more confident," Mr. Pridiyathorn said.

When then-Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha staged his bloodless coup on May 22, Washington invoked the Foreign Assistance Act, suspending more than $10 million in aid to Bangkok and the International Military Education and Training program.

The coup "will have negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in May.

Asked by reporters if he wants to visit America on an official trip, Gen. Prayuth -- who is also prime minister -- replied in September: "If they want me, I will go."

Despite U.S. and European Union pressure, Gen. Prayuth has not announced a deadline for returning Thailand to democracy.

Recent indications have suggested a timetable in which 2016 allows limited national elections for a truncated Parliament, with fewer roles for politicians and more power for appointed technocrats, coup-collaborators and others.

Gen. Prayuth recently promoted loyal military and police officers within their ranks, and installed serving and retired military officers to head vital government ministries, reportedly to reward supporters and snuff any potential counter-coup.

As part of that effort, when 60-year-old Gen. Prayuth retired on schedule as army chief on September 30, he named close ally Gen. Udomdej Sitabutr as the new army chief.

"The reshuffle of 371 army personnel" in recent days "reflects new Army Chief Udomdej Sitabutr's worries about a possible counter-coup, and is being seen as a way to prevent it," the Bangkok Post reported on October 5, citing army sources.

The reshuffle "affects colonels, most of whom are in charge of regiments and combat units, dubbed 'coup units'," the paper said, referring to strategic military units often involved in Thailand's previous coups.

Commanders were changed at the army's three most important combat units.

These included the King's Guard 1st Division in Bangkok, the Queen's Guard 2nd Infantry Division in eastern Prachinburi province, and the 9th Infantry Division based in the west in Kanchanaburi near Thailand's border with Myanmar, also known as Burma.

The reshuffle blunted the army's so-called Divine Lineage, or Wongthewan, faction which reportedly dominated those combat units.

The reshuffle placed those units under greater control by a rival royalist faction, the Tigers of the East, or Burapha Phayak, linked to the Queen's Guard.

Despite decades of expensive U.S. military and intelligence training, weapons deals and other assistance, Thailand is struggling to contain an Islamist separatist insurgency in the south which has killed more than 4,500 people since 2004.

About 50,000 Thai troops and paramilitary rangers have been patrolling three troubled southern provinces.