Japan, Cambodia upgrade ties to “strategic partnership”

Kyodo

Japan and Cambodia agreed Sunday to advance defense cooperation between and upgrade bilateral relations to a “strategic partnership.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen oversaw the signing in Tokyo by their defense ministers of a memorandum of understanding concerning the cooperation and exchanges.

“We would like to strengthen tie-ups in addressing issues in the region and the international community,” Abe told a news conference after a meeting with Hun Sen.

Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, said the tense situation in the East China Sea represents a source of concern for every country in Southeast Asia, and he was pleased to hear Abe is making efforts to improve relations with China, according to a senior Japanese official who briefed journalists about the meeting.

Hun Sen also supported Japan’s call to hold a defense ministers meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko said.

Abe floated the idea during the Japan-ASEAN summit Saturday in Tokyo.

In Sunday’s talks with Hun Sen, Abe pledged ¥13.8 billion in new loans for three infrastructure projects in Cambodia, the Foreign Ministry said.

Of the total, ¥6.48 billion will be provided for improving the stability of the power grid around Phnom Penh. The rest will cover projects to improve irrigation facilities and a highway linking the capital to Thailand.

Abe and Hun Sen also agreed to start negotiating a bilateral aviation agreement, with a view to launching direct flights between the two countries.

In a separate meeting with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan, Abe requested that Thai authorities ensure the safety of Japanese residents and visitors to the country, where large political demonstrations have been held almost daily recently.

Niwatthumrong attended the Japan-ASEAN summit on behalf of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is under heavy public pressure to resign.