The Chinese government on Monday dismissed a report by The Wall Street Journal alleging a secret agreement between China and Cambodia was reached to allow a Chinese military presence in Preah Sihanouk province. It said the report was “over-interpreted”.
On Sunday, the Journal cited US and allied officials saying China is aiming to project its military power around the world by signing a pact with Cambodia that gives “China the exclusive rights to part of a Cambodian naval installation on the Gulf of Thailand”.
On Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the report was “the worst kind of distorted news aimed at [Cambodia]”, noting that the alleged agreement was never discussed.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the relationship between Cambodia and China was “over-interpreted”.
“As I understand, the Cambodian side has denied this. As traditional friendly neighbours, China and Cambodia have conducted cooperation across the board,” Mr Geng said. “Our cooperation is open, transparent, equal and mutually beneficial. We hope this will not be over-interpreted.”
When asked if China denies the existence of the secret agreement, Mr Geng said: “Like I just said, we hope the relevant party will not over-interpret the normal cooperation between China and Cambodia”.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said the US, which is a signatory to the Paris Peace Agreement, suspects a breach of terms by both Cambodia and China, including on neutrality and stationing of foreign forces.
“I doubt the US would fail to entertain the Cambodian government’s request for further evidence of this breach of this particular international guarantee of Cambodia’s neutrality,” Mr Mong Hay said. “In fact, it has alluded to it in its past communication [with] the government.”
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, yesterday said it’s clear that US officials were behind the allegations against the Kingdom.
“Though Cambodia and China have repeatedly denied the allegations, western countries, especially the US are using fake news to distort [information] about Cambodia,” Mr Phea said.
“There are some examples in the Middle East,” he added. “Before they attacked Iraq, the US accused Saddam Hussein of producing nuclear bombs. But after Saddam’s regime was overthrown, there was no sign of nuclear bombs.”
Mr Phea said the allegations made against Cambodia will affect relations with the US.