US defence chief visits Cambodia to boost ties with China ally

by Admin
US defence chief visits Cambodia to boost ties with China ally

Carl Thayer, emeritus professor of politics at Australia’s University of New South Wales, said “US-Cambodia relations are at an inflection point after Hun Manet became prime minister”.

He told AFP that Austin’s visit to Cambodia “signifies that the two sides are willing to jettison some of their rigid policies restricting defence cooperation and engage in renewed dialogue to seek common ground”.

Austin’s visit comes just days after Cambodia and China wrapped up their largest annual military Golden Dragon exercises, involving several Chinese warships and hundreds of military personnel.

In early 2017, Cambodia scrapped a similar joint exercise with US forces.

In December, two Chinese warships made a first visit to the Ream Naval Base that Washington fears is intended for Chinese military use.

Cambodian officials have repeatedly denied that the base, near the port city of Sihanoukville, is for use by any foreign power.

Cambodian political analyst Ou Virak told AFP that the relaunch of joint exercises might be a point of discussion during Austin’s visit.

The Pentagon chief would also want to convey a message to Beijing, “saying this region is too important and China won’t have free rein”, he added.

Washington has in the past voiced criticism over Cambodia’s human rights record and crackdowns on political dissidents and critics.

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