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China Increasing Military Aid to Cambodia, Jets Pledged 


Captain Wang Hong Li (L), Commanding Officer of the 23rd Chinese Naval Escort Task Force, smiles as Cambodia's Defense Minister Tea Banh (R) speaks during a meeting at the Ministry of National Defense of Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia October 17, 2016.

Captain Wang Hong Li (L), Commanding Officer of the 23rd Chinese Naval Escort Task Force, smiles as Cambodia's Defense Minister Tea Banh (R) speaks during a meeting at the Ministry of National Defense of Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia October 17, 2016.

The announcement came as Chinese and U.S. navy vessels docked in Cambodia in a symbolic gesture of support.

Cambodia’s defense minister has said that the military plans to buy fighter jets from China to upgrade its aging air force.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Defense Minister Tea Banh said before the deal could go ahead the government would first seek to improve its air defense system with Chinese assistance.

His remarks followed a meeting with Wang Hong Li, an officer in China’s naval task force, and just days after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first visit to Phnom Penh as head of state.

Tea Banh, who recently returned from a security meeting in Beijing, said, “We will [first] defend aerospace, rather than expand the air force. The next step will be the air force.”

He added that during his visit to Beijing he had signed several military aid agreements with China aimed at modernizing Cambodia’s armed forces, without providing details.

The announcement came as Chinese and U.S. navy vessels docked in Cambodia in a symbolic gesture of support.

Kung Phoak, president of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, said it was “not strange” that Cambodia was making moves to update its crumbling military sector, but cautioned against overspending.

China is Cambodia’s largest donor and lender, providing about $15 billion over the past 20 years. During President Xi’s visit to Cambodia last week, it wrote off about $90 million in debt and pledged another $230 million in loans, as well as $15 million in military aid.

Meas Ny, an analyst of Cambodian affairs, said Cambodia should strengthen its armed forces to protect the country in an increasingly unstable world.

However, he said Cambodia’s small economy meant even donations of military hardware often led to more borrowing and rising debt. “Before we got planes but had to borrow money to buy gasoline [to fly them]. That’s something the government should be thinking about,” he said.

The announcement came as Chinese and U.S. navy vessels docked in Cambodia in a symbolic gesture of support.

Kung Phoak, president of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, said it was “not strange” that Cambodia was making moves to update its crumbling military sector, but cautioned against overspending.

China is Cambodia’s largest donor and lender, providing about $15 billion over the past 20 years. During Xi’s visit last week, it wrote off about $90 million in debt and pledged another $230 million in loans, as well as $15 million in military aid.

Meas Ny, an analyst, said Cambodia should strengthen its armed forces to protect the country in an increasingly unstable world.

However, he said Cambodia’s small economy meant even donations of military hardware often led to more borrowing and rising debt. “Before we got planes but had to borrow money to buy gasoline [to fly them]. That’s something the government should be thinking about,” he said.

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