Sihanoukville – Three Japanese naval ships, including a gun and missile laden destroyer, docked at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port on Saturday on their last stop of a 14-country training expedition throughout Asia and the Middle East.
Led by Rear Admiral Hidetoshi Fuchinoue, the Japanese navy declared its arrival in style with an impressive deck-top reception on Saturday evening for Cambodian navy officers, who mingled with members of the 700-strong force of Japanese sailors on board the three ships, and a scattering of military attaches from the Australian and U.S. embassies.
As guest of honor at the soiree, Cambodia’s navy Commander General Tea Vinh and Rear Adm. Fuchinoue marked the evening by opening a large wooden cask of sake with wooden hammers on the packed deck.
The Japanese ships will take part in a five-day open-sea training mission with Cambodian forces.
Saturday’s port arrival was the third time that a Japanese training squadron has docked on Cambodian shores since 2005, and similar ships are scheduled to visit Cambodia again next year when Tokyo and Phnom Penh celebrate their 60th year of diplomatic relations.
Japan included Cambodia in its maritime tour in part to bolster ties with the country and emphasize its interest in increasing both its business presence and diplomatic weight.
“Japanese people will never forget the assistance and encouragement offered by the Cambodian people after the Great East Japan Earthquake,” Rear Adm. Fuchinoue told the guests present on board the JDS Kashima in his speech. “Japan and Cambodia need to further develop a relationship of friendship and cooperation for the next generation,” he added.
He also told the audience that much of Japan’s imports depend on stability in the region and especially in Japan’s sea lanes. Since 2009, Japan has deployed two destroyers, two helicopters and two aircraft in an effort to contribute to the safety and stability of the Asia Pacific region.
“I think that Japan needs to continue to contribute to the stability and safety of these areas,” he said.
Rear Adm. Fuchinoue will visit Defense Minister Tea Banh in Phnom Penh today and has already visited the Ream navy base in Preah Sihanouk province.
Japan is still one of Cambodia’s most generous foreign donors and played an important role in bringing about the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991 between the Phnom Penh government, Khmer Rouge and other armed factions based on the Thai border.