Cambodia is set to buy thousands of weapons from China, according to premier Hun Sen. The US is concerned that a naval base in the south of the country could host Chinese forces.
The Southeast Asian country's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, announced on Monday that $40 million (€36 million) had been spent this year on top of a total amount of $290 million in previous arms deals with China.
"I ordered the purchase of tens of thousands of additional weapons," Hun Sen said, without detailing what they were. "Now they are being shipped."
"I want to strengthen the army," Hun Sen said during a speech broadcast live on Facebook.
The world's second longest-serving prime minister has been in power for 34 years. He was addressing the issue during a trip to the construction site of a Chinese-funded stadium that he described as a present from President Xi Jinping.
Concerns over port
Last week the Wall Street Journal reported on an agreement between China and Cambodia for the use of the Ream base near Sihanoukville in the Gulf of Thailand.
There had been months of rumors that the Chinese would be allowed to dock warships and store weapons at the base. The US had also expressed concerns that the Ream base could host forces from China.
Hun Sen again denied the reports on Monday, calling the news "slander," but he gave greater details about the arms shipment from China than is usually forthcoming from the long-time leader.
Journalists had been taken on a tour of the base last Friday, where Cambodian-flagged patrol ships were docked.
jsi/jm (Reuters, AFP)