PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - China have provided Cambodia with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, Cambodia’s defense minister said on Friday, as the two countries agreed on new military aid to boost close ties.
Cambodia is one of China’s most stalwart allies in Asia, routinely backing China’s position at international forums in a region where China and United States vie for influence.
“The visit of the defense minister of the People’s Republic of China has achieved good results,” Defense Minister Tea Banh told reporters after a signing ceremony with his visiting Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan.
Tea Banh attended a meeting of defense ministers from the region this week where they scrapped plans for a joint statement because they failed to agree on whether to include a reference to the disputed South China Sea, which China had objected to.
Tea Banh made no mention of those negotiations but said China had recently delivered shoulder-fired missiles.
“We don’t need warplanes because in the current situation, we have already set up anti-aircraft system to defend our airspace,” he said.
He gave no details about the type of missiles but said Cambodia was seeking longer-range hardware.
“We need to be additionally equipped to fire long range or even fast planes can’t escape,” he said.
He said China would also help with training and would build military academies.
Chang told Tea Banh that China would continue to help Cambodia develop and modernize its armed forces, deepening cooperation on every level, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“China and Cambodia are friendly neighbors, with a traditional friendship and that is long-standing and well established,” Chang said.
Cambodia has border disputes with neighboring Vietnam and Thailand and one dispute with Thailand has in recent years occasionally resulted in brief exchanges of fire.
In 2013, Cambodia took delivery of 12 Harbin Z-9 helicopters using a $195 million Chinese loan. The next year, it received a donation of 26 Chinese trucks and 30,000 military uniforms.
China is also Cambodia’s biggest foreign investor and a big buyer of its natural resource exports.
Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel