Cambodian PM: China key strategic partner of Cambodia, ASEAN

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, chair of 2012 ASEAN, said Wednesday China is a major strategic partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) and Cambodia.

Answering reporter’s questions about the relations between ASEAN and China, the premier criticized some analysts who alleged that China and some ASEAN countries are preparing for a possible war.

“That is a completely wrong understanding, in contrast, the ASEAN leaders or ASEAN are all prepared to strengthen strategic partnership of ASEAN and China,” he told a press conference after the conclusion of the 20th ASEAN Summit.

“Don’t forget that ASEAN and China are the strategic partners and China is the ASEAN’s largest trading partner,” he said.

China has substantially helped ASEAN, he said, adding that annually China provides credit to ASEAN member states.

He recalled that during the ASEAN-China Summit in Indonesia last year, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced that China will grant ASEAN a credit of 10 billion U.S. dollars. Within the amount, 4 billion U.S. dollars is for concessional loans, and Cambodia has also received it for infrastructure development.

On Cambodia-China ties, Hun Sen said the two countries raised their relations of good neighbors, good friends and good partners to comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation in 2010.

He said China’s loans to Cambodia are very important to develop roads, bridges, irrigation system, and electricity, which are the key elements to boost economic growth.

He noted that many Chinese investors are in Cambodia with their investments up to 9 billion U.S. dollars.

On some media reports that Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Cambodia ahead of the ASEAN Summit was aimed to put pressure on Cambodia on the issue of South China Sea, the premier said that President Hu’s visit was to further enhance Cambodia-China ties, not pertinent to the ASEAN Summit.

“During his visit here, Hu Jintao did not tell me that I have to do this or that; it is not in the practice of Chinese policy. I have been working with China for more than 20 years, I have never faced, never heard that any Chinese leaders ordered Cambodia to do this or that,” he said.

Terming as “silly” media speculation that China had made Cambodia keep the South China Sea issue off the summit’s agenda, Sen criticized those analysts, saying that they were “unaware of the procedures of ASEAN.”

“There is no hindrance from China to work with ASEAN to solve the South China Sea issue. It cannot be solved with an outside country and Cambodia will resist any attempt by such a nation as well,” he said, adding that economic ties between the two countries showed China’s non-conditional nature in handling international relations.

He said China is a big country, but always respects the decision of other countries unlike some countries which cut assistance when Cambodia did not do as they wish.

“Cambodia is a small country, but it is welcomed by China, it is a great honor for us,” he said.

Hun Sen said that during the visit of Hu Jintao, the two countries vowed to double their bilateral trade volume to 5 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 from 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2011.

“In the past, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and I vowed to push the two-way trade volume to 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, but just in 2011, we had achieved that target–it was four years earlier than the target,” he said.

“We have seen the momentum of the bilateral trade between Cambodia and China, so the two countries decided to promote the bilateral trade to 5 billion in 2017.”

“The development of China brings prosperity to all countries in ASEAN, the region and the world,” said the premier.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Xinhua