Cambodia, which this year suspended major military drills with the United States for two years saying the armed forces were too busy, is prepared for defence exercises with the Chinese, Defence Minister Tea Banh told a military delegation from Beijing this week.
Banh discussed military-to-military cooperation with the Chinese armed forces in a meeting with representatives of the Chinese National Defence University on Wednesday.
“Cambodia is prepared to conduct other exercises with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as well as preparing for the Chinese navy’s docking in Cambodia,” Banh told the delegation’s leader, Major General Zhao Wenhua, according to a press release.
In January, Cambodia said it would suspend for two years the long-running annual “Angkor Sentinel” exercises with the US military, saying its troops were too busy.
The decision came in wake of a major joint exercise with China and was followed by the scrapping of a humanitarian programme run by the US Navy and cancelled anti-terrorism exercises run by Australia.
Observers saw the moves as part of Cambodia’s tilt away from the West and towards China, which has showered the Kingdom with grants, loans and investment.
However, Defence Ministry spokesman Chum Socheat denied playing favourites.
He said cooperating with the Chinese involved ongoing training programmes, such as language training, and not new exercises.
He said while some exercises would remain “delayed temporarily”, others would continue, but did not give further details.
Asked whether drills would continue with the US, he said the ministry “will wait and see the situation, whether it is fruitful or not”.
US Embassy spokesman David Josar referred questions on the matter to Cambodian authorities.