The heads of defence of Cambodia and China vowed to further enhance relations two days ahead of the US defence chief’s visit to the Kingdom to further expand Cambodia-US cooperation. 

The commitment was made during a bilateral meeting between Minister of National Defence Tea Seiha and Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun on the sidelines of the 21st Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asia security summit, in Singapore, on June 2.

Seiha, who also serves as deputy prime minister, said the government of Cambodia, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Manet, continues to support the one-China policy.

He added that Sino-Cambodian relations have deepened, in which relations and cooperation between the two armies under the leadership of Tea Banh, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence, have brought the relationship to its current "ironclad" state.

“Seiha has pledged to continue to strengthen and expand the existing relationship and strive to enhance the relationship,” the ministry’s June 3 statement said.

Seiha invited Dong to pay an official visit to Cambodia, while Dong invited Seiha to visit and attend the Xiangshan Forum in China later this year.

Dong expressed his high regard for the existing cooperation between the two armies and identified Seiha as a successor [to Banh] who can ensure the continued strengthening of friendship and collaboration between the militaries, according to the statement.

During the ASEAN-US Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Retreat, on the sidelines of the summit, Seiha said that the US is a strong partner of ASEAN and that the cooperation between the two sides was built on common values and interests.

“Both ASEAN and the US have made great efforts to protect and support law-based international order, creating a conducive environment for peace, stability and respect for the sovereignty of all nations across the globe,” he said. 

Seiha highlighted that this is important not only for ASEAN but for the world as well.

“ASEAN-US defence cooperation has played an important role in strengthening the region’s capability to address shared concerns and to achieve a common vision of a secure and prosperous region.

“Cambodia supports the role and contribution of the US in regional affairs and cooperation with [the bloc] within the framework of the ASEAN-US Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” he said. 

During the summit, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with defence leaders from Southeast Asia, including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste to discuss opportunities to promote peace and stability in the region on June 2.

Austin reaffirmed the US’ long-term commitment to working with ASEAN and supporting the ASEAN community, demonstrating the progress that has been made after the two sides upgraded their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2022, said the US Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder in a June 2 press statement. 

He said that Austin reaffirmed his support for the ‘essential’ role of ADMM-Plus in facilitating multilateral cooperation on regional security challenges.

“Secretary Austin also highlighted ongoing US support for maritime security across Southeast Asia, including through the US Maritime Security Initiative and the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness initiative,” Ryder added. 

Austin expressed grave concern over the escalation of violence in Myanmar and thanked his regional counterparts for the April 2024 ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Statement on Myanmar. He reiterated US support for the full implementation of the blocs’ leaders’ five-point consensus.

Following the conclusion of the Shangri-La Dialogue, Austin paid his second official visit to Cambodia on June 4, meeting separately with former Prime Minister and current Senate President Hun Sen, Prime Minister Hun Manet and Seiha, to continue to strengthen and expand cooperation between the two countries.

The Cambodian national defense ministry said in a June 4 press release that the visit will reaffirm the countries’ long-standing friendship and the commitment of the US Department of Defense and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) to work together as key partners to deepen defence cooperation for the maintenance of peace, stability and sustainable development of the two countries, as well as for the region as a whole.