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Cambodia Requests 2 Warships From China

Tea Vinh, commander of the Royal Cambodian Navy (R), welcomes Yu Manjiang, commanding officer of the Chinese fleet visiting Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, Feb. 24, 2016.

Cambodian defense officials have requested two warships from China, saying they are needed to help Cambodia defend its maritime territory.

Cambodian Navy Admiral Tea Vinh asked for the two modern military vessels during a meeting with Chinese Rear Admiral Yu Manjian. Their talks in Phnom Penh followed joint maritime rescue drills conducted by the countries' naval forces, which ended Wednesday.

During the exercise, three Chinese ships - two frigates armed with guided missiles and a supply ship - were docked on display at the port of Sihanoukville.

"When I went to inspect them, the ships are very good," Tea Vinh said in a statement.

Meas Tang, a spokesman for the Cambodian navy, said the request was more like a "wish list," and that it remains unclear whether China will accept such a request.

Saying South China Sea tensions were discussed during his meeting with Yu, Tea Vinh said Cambodia maintains the same stance with ASEAN naval leaders, including those in dispute with China.

"I say this should be resolved amongst themselves peacefully," he said.

Tea Vinh also affirmed Cambodia’s one-China policy, which does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state.

This week's maritime drills, consisting primarily of fire and rescue exercises, signal increased military cooperation between the countries.

The arrival of the display ships, which were open to the public Thursday, come amid news that China has continued to build up infrastructure amid disputed islands in the South China Sea, and just after ASEAN leaders met with U.S. President Barack Obama in talks that included the contentious sea issue.

This story was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.