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Beijing top brass give thanks for Kingdom’s South China Sea policy

CHINA has thanked Cambodia for its opposition to the “internationalisation” of disputes in the South China Sea, following visits to the Kingdom last week by top Chinese and American policymakers.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said last week, following a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Wu Bangguo, China’s top legislator, that Wu had thanked Cambodia for supporting Beijing’s “One China” policy, as well as for remarks the premier made at last month’s ASEAN summit in Hanoi regarding the contentious South China Sea.

China claims sovereignty over the waters, though the United States has waded into the dispute as well, calling for freedom of navigation in the area. Other ASEAN members including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia have also staked territorial claims in the area.

“China thanked the government of Cambodia for its stance on China’s reconciliation, and thanked the just stance of Samdech Hun Sen for objecting to attempts to internationalise the matter of the South China Sea,” Khieu Kanharith said on Thursday.

“Regarding the relations between ASEAN and China, China expressed its stance that it does not intend to seek power or own ASEAN, and supports the role of ASEAN,” Khieu Kanharith said.

In July, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called freedom of navigation in the South China Sea an American “national interest”, and has suggested multilateral discussions to resolve territorial disagreements in the area. Clinton was in the Kingdom last week for a two-day visit.

US embassy spokesman Mark Wenig said in an email yesterday that he knew of no “official dialogue on this issue between the US and Cambodia”, but that “the US position has consistently been that the South China Sea is within international waters”.

During Wu’s four-day visit, which concluded on Saturday, Chinese officials announced plans to invest US$1.6 billion in 23 infrastructure projects in the Kingdom over the next five years, projects Khieu Kanharith said would include “roads, bridges, ports, railways and information technology”. Cambodia and China also signed 16 agreements related to hydropower and water resources.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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