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Chinese pledge $1.6bn

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China has pledged to invest US$1.6 billion in infrastructure projects in the Kingdom over the next five years, as Wu Bangguo, China’s top legislator, continued his four-day visit to Cambodia.

The sum will be spread over 23 projects to be implemented by 2015, information minister Khieu Kanharith said following a meeting between Wu, the chairman of the standing committee of China’s national people’s congress, and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“China has lots of experience in infrastructure projects, so they will help Cambodia to develop roads, bridges, ports, railways and information technology,” Khieu Kanharith said.

China has also announced an additional $15 million in aid and has pledged to cancel $4.2 million in debt that Cambodia was due to repay this year, Khieu Kanharith said, in addition to signing 16 agreements related to hydropower and water resources. The Financial Times reported that the agreements included electricity deals involving Chinese state power producer Huadian.

Specific details of the projects were unavailable; Chinese embassy spokesman Qian Hai said he had no information on the issue.

The announcements came only days after United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluded a two-day visit to the Kingdom in which she announced plans to dispatch a “team of experts” to resolve the long-standing issue of Cambodia’s Lon Nol-era debt to the US, which stands at roughly $445 million with interest.

Clinton warned Cambodia during her visit against becoming too dependent on Beijing, saying it was “smart for Cambodia to be friends with many countries”.

Khieu Kanharith said government cooperation with both China and the United States was governed by principles “without bias to any country”.
During a visit to the Kingdom last year, Chinese vice president Xi Jinping announced a package of $1.2 billion worth of grants and loans. The aid was unveiled just two days after Cambodia deported a group of 20 Uighur Chinese asylum seekers over American objections.
Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s Banking and Finance Committee, said the Kingdom had accrued more than $4 billion in debt to China since 1994.
During his meeting with Wu, Hun Sen pushed for China to import more rice from Cambodia and increase direct flights between the two countries, Khieu Kanharith said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH AND JAMES O’TOOLE

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