Defence Minister Tea Banh yesterday moved to deny the recent cancellation of joint Cambodian and US military exercises was to appease China, with which the Kingdom’s armed forces conducted training with last month.
Cambodia’s government wrote to the US Embassy recently to postpone for two years the annual Angkor Sentinel exercises, according to a US Embassy spokesman. Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat said the exercises, which have been held for the past seven years, were cancelled because the military was busy with an anti-drug crackdown and preparations for election security.
Reached yesterday, Defence Minister Tea Banh rejected that the Kingdom’s warm ties with China and the countries’ increasing military cooperation played any part in the decision.
“We have no conflict with anybody. [The cancellation] is because we are busy,” Banh said, adding the postponement was temporary. “Our relationship with the US and Chinese is the same. There is nothing strange.”
The Cambodian and Chinese militaries last month held the inaugural “Golden Dragon” exercises. The drills, which involved some 100 Chinese troops, were seen as yet another sign of Cambodia increasingly turning towards China for support.
In October, Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Cambodia and pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. Reached yesterday, the Chinese Embassy’s Cheng Hongbo said the embassy had received no information on whether “Golden Dragon” or other joint exercises would be held in the next two years.