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West ‘out to strain China ties’

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhon (pictured) meets with Chinese ambassador Wang Wentian on Tuesday. Heng Chivoan

West ‘out to strain China ties’

The People’s Republic of China’s ambassador to Cambodia, Wang Wentian, accused the West of attempting to sabotage the two nations’ friendship during a meeting with Cambodian officials, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesman Ket Sophann said on Tuesday.

He said the Chinese ambassador’s statement was made in a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Prak Sokhonn.

At the meeting, Wentian also said China’s relationship with Cambodia was akin to that of brothers, with his nomination as ambassador a huge responsibility due to the deep friendship and long history.

Sophann highlighted Wentian’s reported concerns over the West’s attempts to exert influence over their relationship.

“Recently there have been negative statements about Chinese people in Preah Sihanouk town [Sihanoukville]. Both countries will jointly solve these irregularities in Preah Sihanouk province soon."

“But some foreign countries, especially [from] the West, usually colour and enlarge these small issues, trying to attack the cooperation between Cambodia and China. It is an issue which both countries will continue to solve,” Sophann said.

Sophann also reported that Wentian reaffirmed China’s commitment to respecting Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty, and strongly supports the prime minister’s authority.

His comments come in reference to recent rumours alleging that China plans to build military bases in Cambodia’s Koh Kong province.

Sokhonn reportedly told the Chinese ambassador that Cambodia will not permit foreign military bases on its territory, with military cooperation only coming in the form of shared exercises and training.

He continued that the presence of foreign military bases on Cambodian soil, as well as the presence of its own military bases abroad, is outlawed by the Cambodian constitution.

Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch also criticised rumours of potential Chinese military bases in Cambodia.

“Cambodia is experiencing an average seven per cent economic growth each year. Therefore, most Chinese aid or investment has no strings attached [like the building of military bases on Cambodian soil]."

“People see on Facebook, problems about the Chinese people. But those things are the tricks of the West and neighbours,” Touch said.

Also discussed was the visit of Prime Minister Hun Sen to China on January 21-22. The visit should see the prime minister signing a number of bilateral agreements.

Wentian also led a delegation to meet Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong at the Cambodia-China Friendship Palace on Monday, in which the latter thanked the Chinese government for purchasing 300,000 tons of Cambodian rice this year.

Yet to be confirmed is a further meeting between Wentian and National Assembly president Heng Samrin.

Arend Zwartjes, US Embassy in Cambodia spokesman, declined to comment yesterday on Wentian’s statement.

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