Tuesday, 3 June 2008

US gives trucks to Cambodia after renewing military ties

Soldiers with military trucks
PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The United States on Monday gave 31 used trucks to Cambodia in its first direct supply of military hardware in more than a decade, saying ties between the two countries were improving.

The GMC cargo trucks were the first delivery in a group of 60 the US military has agreed to give to the Southeast Asian nation. They were handed over at a brief ceremony at the kingdom's air base.

After years in the diplomatic wilderness, Cambodia's star is on the rise with the United States.

In particular, military ties to the country, largely snapped after Prime Minister Hun Sen ousted his then-political counterpart in a 1997 coup, were re-established two years ago with the promise of limited military aid.

Since then, at least three senior US military commanders have visited Cambodia, and in February last year the USS Gary became the first US warship to visit the former communist country in more than 30 years.

"The military-to-military relationship between the US and Cambodia is definitely on an improving track," said US embassy charge d'affaires Piper Campbell.

Cambodia has in recent years become a stronger focus for both Washington and Beijing.

China, a former patron of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, continues to eclipse the impoverished country's other donors with hundreds of millions of dollars in largely unconditional aid and a number of naval patrol boats.

"There is enough room for the US to work with Cambodia and China to work with Cambodia," Campbell said.

General Meoung Samphan, secretary of state at the defence ministry, welcomed the US trucks, saying it would help to reduce Cambodian spending on military equipment.

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