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Cambodia Insists China Naval Drills Don't Threaten Regional Security

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia on May 27th sought to quell concerns by reiterating that its recent joint naval exercise with China doesn't pose a threat to any nation. General Ith Sarath, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), delivered this message during the closing ceremony of the Golden Dragon Naval Exercise 2024.

The 12-day drills, held in Preah Sihanouk province, involved over 780 personnel from Cambodia and China. They focused on exchanging expertise and enhancing cooperation in combating maritime terrorism, according to General Sarath. He praised the active participation of both forces, crediting it for the exercise's success.

General Sarath, speaking on behalf of the Ministry of National Defense, also expressed gratitude to the Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities and other stakeholders for their cooperation, particularly considering this was Cambodia's first such naval exercise. He further encouraged continued collaboration and knowledge exchange between the Cambodian and Chinese navies.

While Cambodia maintains the drills were focused solely on counter-terrorism, some regional analysts view them with a cautious eye. China's growing military presence in the South China Sea has been a source of tension with several Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines. Cambodia's decision to conduct these drills alongside China could be interpreted as a strategic move to solidify its relationship with a powerful regional neighbor.

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