Cambodia cancels military drill with US
Cambodia has annulled military exercises with the United States slated to take place this summer for the eighth consecutive year, the defense ministry says.
Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said Tuesday the country’s troops would not participate in the annual “Angkor Sentinel” joint drill as they were needed for local elections in June.
“We need forces to maintain security during the local elections in 2017. That’s why we are suspending the exercise,” Socheat said.
He denied that the country’s regional ally, China, played any role in the decision, saying “it is not about Chinese influence.”
“We have cooperation with both China and US as well as other countries,” the spokesman added.
His remarks came as reports attributed Phnom Penh’s decision to China’s growing influence in the region and Cambodia’s enhanced cooperation with Beijing.
In December 2015, Cambodia and China conducted a joint drill for the first time. The “Golden Dragon” exercise was reportedly similar in size and purpose to “Angkor Sentinel.”
US Embassy spokesman Jay Raman confirmed that the drills for 2017 and 2018 have been annulled but stressed that military exchanges and training programs were not affected.
“Joint military exercises benefit both of our nations by enhancing our ability to work together to combat maritime piracy, protect trade and shipping routes, deter terrorists, and provide humanitarian assistance during natural disasters,” he said.
Raman said the United States “will look for additional ways that we can cooperate in these areas.”