PHNOM PENH – Cambodia announced on Monday an increase in spending on weapons from China amid tensions with the United States, which has expressed concern for military ties between Phnom Penh and Beijing.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that an additional $40 million will be spent on weapons from China to strengthen and modernize its military, on top of the military aid already given by Beijing.
The leader also dismissed a report published last week by The Wall Street Journal on an alleged agreement between the two countries that would allow Beijing to use the Ream Naval Base in southern coastal Cambodia.
Hun Sen made the arms purchase announcement at an address during an event in the Cambodian capital to inaugurate a sports stadium, funded by China, which was broadcast on his social media accounts.
Citing unnamed US officials, the American daily said that the agreement would allow China to post military personnel, store weapons and berth warships at the base.
The bases could allow China to expand its interests and exert itself in the region. It already has several military installations built on islands in the South China Sea, an area that it claims in its entirety and disputed by Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.
Cambodia is a strong political and economic ally of China and has boycotted discussions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on claims over the disputed area.
The US has repeatedly condemned Beijing’s stance over the region, a key strategic zone for trade routes that is rich in natural resources, including fish, gas and oil.
Tensions in the area have increased in recent years through altercations and accusations between states in the region and its militarization by China.