Cambodia seeks modern Chinese warships to bolster maritime defence

Cambodia has a vestigial fleet consisting of patrol craft, and it would be in China's interest to help it beef up its maritime operations.

Cambodia has requested China for two advanced war ships following the joint naval drill conducted by the two countries in the South China Sea.

Cambodian Navy chief Tea Vinh told his Chinese counterpart the Southeast Asian country needs modern vessels for defending its maritime territory.

The request followed the first-ever joint naval exercise by Cambodia and China which, incidentally, took place under the shadows of rising tensions in South China Sea.

The Chinese contingent for the naval drill included three vessels -- two frigates armed with guided missiles and a supply ship.

The contingent also had 737 Chinese sailors, a Sihanoukville Port official told RFA's Khmer Service.

"When I went to inspect them, the ships are very good," Tea Vinh said in a statement, adding that the request was still being negotiated.

However, a spokesman for the Cambodian navy said the request was more like a "wish list," Voice of America reported.

Cambodia is one of China's staunchest allies in Asia but the two countries insisted that the drill was basically about humanitarian missions and rescue operations.

Currently the country has a vestigial fleet consisting mainly of patrol craft, and it would be in China's interest to help it beef up its maritime operations.

Phnom Penh has consistently backed China in various international forums, including within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

It was successful in thwarting the bloc's plan to discuss the South China Sea dispute at the regional summit in 2012.

Cambodia had availed of a Chinese loan of $195 million to buy 12 Harbin Z-9 helicopters in 2013.

China, which is Cambodia's biggest foreign investor and a major consumer of the country's natural resources, donated the country 26 trucks and 30,000 military uniforms in 2014.