Cambodia will spend an additional $40 million on Chinese weapons to further modernize its military, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday, July 29 in the latest sign of increased defense ties between the two countries.
In a speech broadcast from a Chinese funded stadium in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said he wanted “to strengthen the army” and would purchase tens of thousands of firearms to replace outdated stock, Reuters reported.
He did not give further details about the weapons set to be purchased.
Last year China pledged around $100 million to help modernize the Cambodian military. Cambodia has in recent years moved away from its traditional ally the the United States, and last year Hun Sen accused the U.S. of supporting a plot to overthrow his government.
The prime minister on Monday again dismissed a Wall Street Journal report of an agreement with Beijing to allow Chinese forces to use the Cambodian naval base in Ream. Both Hun Sen and Chinese officials have previously denied the report, which cited unnamed U.S. officials.
China has backed a $3.5 million investment zone along the Cambodian coast that gives a Chinese company a 99-year lease on the potentially lucrative project, NPR reported last week. In total, Hun Sen has agreed about $600 million in Chinese loans as part of the Belt and Road initiative, and a further $2 billion in infrastructure funding.
The rumored naval agreement at Ream would see the construction of two piers – one each for Cambodian and Chinese forces – and give Beijing another foreign foothold.