Cambodian And US Navies See Eye to Eye

The world’s largest navy and Cambodia’s, which is among the world’s smallest, share an interest in ensuring the movement of goods and people over Southeast Asia’s oceans, the commander of the US Pacific Fleet said Wednesday.

The visit to Phnom Penh Wed­nesday by US Navy Admiral Gary Roughead, whose combined command covers over 260 million square kilometers, is the latest encounter in increasingly warm military relations between the US and Cambodia.

However, cooperation remains at an early stage, Roughead said in an interview.

“All navies share an interest in the free flow of commerce and goods in the region. I think that economies are facilitated by navies,” Roughead said.

“I believe that the Cambodian navy has a strong interest in maritime security and I just wanted to come here, meet the leadership and begin a dialogue that will lead to a way of cooperation.”

Countering the growing influence of China was not the reason for the visit, Roughead said.

Regional naval operations need not directly involve the US, he added, citing the example of Ma­lay­sian, Singaporean and Indo­nesian cooperation in the Malacca Straits.

The US in 2005 lifted an eight-year ban on military assistance to the Cambodian government following the factional fighting of 1997. In September, Cambodia received $1 million in military assistance from the US.

Roughead said that these chan­ges, as well as his own visit and that in July by US Admiral William Fallon, commander of all US forces in the Pacific, means that things are looking up. But cooperation for the time being will concern basic matters such as Eng­lish-language training and search and rescue operations, he said.

Defense Minister Tea Banh could not be contacted Thursday. In 2003, only four of Cambodia’s 12 Soviet-built Stankar-class ships were operational, officials said at the time.

(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)


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