Cambodia has purchased “tens of thousands” of weapons from China, Cambodian Premier Hun Sen said yesterday, providing rare details of arms deals with Beijing just days after denying a secret agreement to allow Chinese warships to use a local naval base.
The Wall Street Journal last week reported on a draft deal letting China access Ream base near Sihanoukville to dock warships and store weapons, apparently confirming months of rumors.
Cambodia tried to knock down the report on Friday by taking dozens of reporters on an unprecedented tour of the base.
Hun Sen repeated the denials in his latest remarks and called the news “slander,” but he went into an unusual level of detail about arms sales from its powerful neighbor.
“I ordered the purchase of tens of thousands of additional weapons,” he said, without explaining what the nation had bought. “Now they are being shipped.”
Hun Sen said US$40 million had been spent this year on top of a total amount of US$290 million in previous arms deals with China.
“I want to strengthen the army,” he said.
He was speaking during a trip to the construction site of a Chinese-funded stadium that he called a gift from Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
China has lavished billions of dollars in soft loans, infrastructure and investment on Cambodia, which has tilted away from the US amid Hun Sen’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
Cambodia has also stepped up military exercises with China and been a staunch diplomatic ally in the fiercely contested South China Sea.
The Ream base under scrutiny is strategically located in the Gulf of Thailand and gives ready access to the disputed waterway.
The US embassy in Phnom Penh has questioned the possible hosting of foreign military assets there.
The base is also close to Sihanoukville, where many casinos and properties are Chinese-owned.
Anger built in the southwestern city last month when a Chinese building under construction collapsed, killing 28 people.
Analysts say Hun Sen, who has been in power for 34 years, is attuned to the potential for an anti-China backlash and placing a base there would be a step too far for Cambodians.
Friday’s tour of the base was unprecedented in a country where military installations are almost never opened to the media.
During the closely chaperoned trip, navy and government officers showed reporters a number of outhouses and a jetty where several Cambodian-flagged patrol ships had docked.
Additional reporting by Reuters
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread