Cambodia and China kicked off their 5th Golden Dragon military exercises on March 23 in the Phnom Chum Rikreay area in Kampong Chhnang province’s Samaki Meanchey district. The exercises are scheduled to last until April 8.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinese President Xi Jinping first discussed the drills during the former’s visit to Beijing in February, as the two countries commemorate their 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

According to Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) spokesman Thong Solimo, this year’s Golden Dragon exercises will have the participation of over 500 Cambodian military personnel along with over 200 of their Chinese counterparts.

General Hun Manet, RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief and Commander of the Royal Cambodian Army, presided over the opening ceremony for the joint drills along with Chen Mintian, Deputy Chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theatre Command.

Speaking at the ceremony, Manet said the joint exercises will train personnel for “security operations in major events and humanitarian relief”. The drills, Manet said, are in response to the needs of the two armies as well as to bolster potential peacekeeping cooperation in the region.

He added that Cambodia has been trying to maintain peace, stability, its macro-economy and public security while combating Covid-19.

As the exercises focus also on humanitarian relief, Manet said Cambodia and all countries must be ready to prevent any new pandemics and respond to other disasters in a timely and effective manner.

The PLA’s Chen said that Cambodia and China have been good friends for a long time and share a high level of mutual trust. Both countries have brotherhood “like hands and legs and the heartfelt friends”.

The Golden Dragon 2023 military exercise with China began in Kampong Chhnang province on March 23. Heng Chivoan

Chen further said that ever since Cambodia and China forged their diplomatic ties 65 years ago, the friendship has been improved and expanded by the leaders of both countries from one generation to the next and become a new model for international ties as the leaders of both nations in the current era have taken the relationship to new heights.

“The joint military exercises at this time are not only to exchange experiences between the two countries on security for major events and other military related concerns, but also are an opportunity to get to know each other conceptually and culturally in order to expand the traditional friendship between China and Cambodia towards achieving excellence,” said Chen.

He added that the Chinese naval vessel that brought the military equipment for the Golden Dragon exercises also held joint maritime naval exercises on telecommunications with their Cambodian counterparts, and that Chinese forces would also take part in exercises related to special military operations, demining and medical rescue.

“I urge all participants to use this occasion to contribute to strengthening our foundation of cooperation and mutual trust between our two countries,” Chen said. “We must all be united, shoulder to shoulder, and push toward building a community of common destiny for China and Cambodia in the new era.”

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that for government level cooperation, Cambodia and China have already built an “ironclad friendship” and are now working on their “diamond cooperation framework”.

“All cooperation between the two countries has been initiated with the purpose of understanding each other under the new diamond cooperation framework,” he said.