Cambodia and China have concluded the 5th “Golden Dragon” joint military exercises, held mainly in Kampong Chhnang province this year, with a closing ceremony on April 5 presided over by Minister of National Defence Tea Banh and Chinese ambassador Wang Wentian.

Tea Banh said the drills demonstrated to the world the “ironclad” friendship of the two nations and pointed out that training exercises like the Golden Dragon are even more crucial in today’s uncertain and rapidly changing world.

“The Golden Dragon joint military exercises of 2023 presented to the world a clear demonstration of the unbreakable bonds of steel that form the friendship between Cambodia and China, which have been carefully nurtured by the previous generations of leaders of both countries and have continued to grow stronger for 65 years since diplomatic ties were first established, setting an example for a new kind of international relations,” he said.

He added that the successful completion of the joint exercises comes amid the opening of the Cambodia-China Friendship Year, established in part to celebrate the 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

“These joint exercises are very important to the security strategy of the Cambodia-China relationship, and they have become even more necessary in the context of the changes and challenges taking place in the world nowadays,” he said.

The minister said that no matter how the international situation may change or evolve, their two countries will continue to deepen their friendship and implement the policy of win-win cooperation for mutual benefit to build towards a community of common destiny for mankind.

He added that when Cambodia and China are at peace, they can overcome all obstacles together by working shoulder to shoulder during hard times and in all circumstances to succeed in their plans.

“These successes . . . will contribute to building a community with a common destiny by promoting the linkage between China’s Belt and Road Initiative [BRI] and the Cambodian government’s Rectangular Strategy to maintain peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Tea Banh also noted that the exercises were conducted by 2,831 military personnel, including 2,774 members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and 257 members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China.

Wei Wenhui, deputy commander of the southern region for the PLA, said at the ceremony – in a speech delivered through a translator – that the exercises were an important forum for the two countries’ armies to train together and exchange experience .

He noted that this round of exercises was the fifth between Cambodia and China, and it was a success in all respects, with this year’s version including higher levels of command on a larger scale with more complex objectives.

Wei added that the previous Golden Dragon exercises only included the army, but this time it was expanded to include naval forces as well to further develop the capacity to respond to security threats with a diverse range of forces.

He said the officers and soldiers of both militaries had learned from each other, coordinated closely and fully cooperated in capacity building to successfully fulfil the mission objectives.

“We have sharply diversified the forces involved in these exercises. China and Cambodia are both important countries in the region with enormous responsibilities for protecting the security and prosperity within the region and around the world. For this exercise, both sides focused on real threats in the region, promoting security operations in response to major crisis events and carrying out humanitarian relief operations,” he said.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on April 5 that bilateral cooperation between the two nations has a long history that stretches back thousands of years. He pointed out, as one example, the scenes depicted at Bayon Temple where Chinese Song dynasty soldiers are shown marching with the army of King Jayavarman VII in an engraving in the east gallery.

“This cooperation is to strengthen each other’s capabilities. It is not a military alliance like NATO or other mutual defence pacts. Cambodia, in accordance with Article 53 of the Constitution, does not allow foreign military bases on our territory and Cambodia does not have military bases abroad. We only deploy our military abroad as part of peacekeeping operations authorised under the UN umbrella,” he said.