Cambodian Prime Minister Han Manet made his first official foreign visit to the country’s close ally China.

Cambodian Prime Minister Han Manet arrived in Beijing on Thursday in his first official trip abroad since taking office last month. The visit highlighted his country’s cordial relations with China, Cambodia’s closest political and economic ally.

Han Manet will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials in the capital and attend a weekend trade and investment fair in southern China, Cambodia’s foreign ministry said. The ministry statement said the two leaders will discuss strengthening the countries’ ties through building a „Cambodia-China community,” strategic directions for bilateral relations, and regional and international issues.

Chinese state broadcaster CGTN released pictures of Hun Manet and his wife Pich Chanmony walking down the stairs from the plane onto the red carpet, where they were greeted by two children, a Chinese official and others. Han Manet later laid a wreath at a memorial in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that honors those who died fighting foreign invaders and in the struggles and battles that brought China’s ruling Communist Party to power in 1949.

Cambodia is a key Chinese diplomatic partner and supporter in regional and international forums. It helps reduce criticism of Beijing within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, many of which are embroiled in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

China has a major influence on Cambodian politics and its economy, as seen in many Chinese-sponsored projects, hotels and casinos in the capital Phnom Penh and across the country. China’s state banks have financed airports, roads and other infrastructure with Chinese loans. More than 40 percent of Cambodia’s US$10 billion foreign debt is owed to China.

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After his meetings in Beijing, Han Manet plans to attend the 20th ASEAN-China Expo in Nanning, the regional capital of southern China, not far from the border with Vietnam, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will participate in the exhibition along with the prime ministers of Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos, as well as senior government officials from Indonesia and Thailand, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. The exhibition promotes cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in trade, investment and tourism.

Cambodia’s close ties with Beijing were fostered by Hun Manet’s father, Hun Sen, who stepped down as prime minister last month after nearly four decades. Hun Sen’s authoritarian rule and his Cambodian People’s Party, fostered by shrewd political maneuvers that silenced any effective opposition, have held on to power. Shortly after Hun Sen announced his retirement plans, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Cambodia.

Han Sen’s eldest son, Han Manet, succeeded his father as commander-in-chief. He attended the US military academy at West Point but is widely expected to maintain arms-length ties with Washington.

The US disapproves of Hun Sen’s anti-democratic moves and is unconcerned about the expansion of the Gulf of Thailand naval port by Cambodia and China last year. Hun Sen continued to deny that Cambodia had given China the right to set up its own military base at the Rheem Naval Base.

China’s Defense Ministry announced Thursday that the military will hold an annual joint exercise in Cambodia from mid- to late September to improve medical services’ integrated operation and emergency response capabilities.(AP) RUP RUP

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(This story was not edited by DevDiscourse staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)

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