Cambodia plans to cut shipping through Vietnamese ports by 70% as a result of a $1.7 billion China-funded upgrade of a canal connecting the Mekong River basin to the Cambodian coast, the country's deputy prime minister said.

Sun Chanthol downplayed environmental concerns about the Funan Techo canal slated to break ground later this year and dismissed speculation that it could be used to allow upriver access for Chinese warships as "baseless."

The project, to be completed by 2028, has the potential to reignite tensions between Cambodia and Vietnam, which are close partners but have often clashed.