19 May 2024, 13:31

Two Chinese warships in Cambodia for military drills

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia, May 19, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Two Chinese warships
docked in Cambodia on Sunday as part of the biggest-ever joint military
drills with the Southeast Asian nation, with Beijing's ambassador hailing
their "ironclad" friendship.

Cambodia has long been a staunch ally of China and has received billions of
dollars in investment.

Washington is growing increasingly concerned Beijing will use a Cambodian
naval base it is upgrading on Gulf of Thailand to expand its influence in the

On Sunday the training ship Qijiguang and amphibious warfare ship
Jinggangshan docked at Sihanoukville as part of 15 days of land and sea
drills involving 760 Chinese military personnel along with around 1,300
Cambodians and 11 Cambodian vessels.

The Qijiguang bore a banner reading "Bring peace and friendship to meet good
friends" as it approached the port.

"We are ironclad friends," Chinese ambassador Wang Wentian told reporters on
the shore.

China-Cambodia military cooperation was "conducive to the security of both
countries and to the security of the region."

At Ream, a few kilometres along the coast, China has been funding the
renovation of a naval base originally built partly using US funds.

Two Chinese warships docked at Ream in December for the first time after work
began to expand the base.

Washington says Ream could give Beijing a key strategic position on the Gulf
of Thailand near the disputed South China Sea, which China largely claims.

Last year, Cambodian officials denied a new 363-metre (1,190-foot) pier at
Ream was intended to berth aircraft carriers.

"Where the Chinese navy goes, we bring friendship, we bring cooperation, no
others," ambassador Wang said in response to a question on concerns over
Beijing's growing influence.

At the start of the drills on Thursday China's military showed off its
hardware including so-called "robodogs" -- remote-controlled four-legged
robots with automatic rifles mounted on their backs.

Handlers kept the dogs of war on the leash, demonstrating only their walking
capabilities to watching journalists and top brass -- not their shooting

The drills follow a three-day visit by China's top diplomat Wang Yi to
Cambodia in April to deepen ties between the two countries.

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