Cambodia to Increase Arms Purchases From China

July 29, 2019 Updated: July 29, 2019

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on July 29 that an additional $40 million would be spent on weapons from China to modernize the Southeast Asian country’s military.

Cambodia’s military ties with ally China have been under increased scrutiny after concerns expressed by the United States and a report—denied by Hun Sen—of a secret deal to allow Chinese forces to use a Cambodian naval base.

Hun Sen said the $40 million to be spent by Cambodia is in addition to $290 million in previous arms deals with China. He spoke during a visit to a Chinese-funded stadium in the capital Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen said weapons being purchased included tens of thousands of guns to replace old stock and they were already being shipped.

“I want to strengthen the army,” Hun Sen said in a speech that was broadcast live on Facebook.

Hun Sen again dismissed a July 21 Wall Street Journal report, which cited U.S. and allied officials, that China had reached a secret deal with Cambodia this year to let it place forces at the Ream naval base in southern Cambodia. The Journal also claimed that worries over the proposed deal prompted U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to draft a letter of concern to the Cambodian prime minister.

The news is the latest sign of China’s aggression in defending its territorial claims in the South China Sea, a region with rich oil reserves. A number of nearby Southeast Asian nations also claim areas of the South China Sea as their own.

In Cambodia and the Southeast Asian region generally, China has also sought to economically coerce countries into abiding by its interests, challenging historic partnerships that the United States has built, according to a strategy paper published in 2017 by the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council.

By Prak Chan Thul. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.

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