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Cambodia PM orders destruction of US weapons after arms ban

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the nation’s military to destroy all of its American weapons or dump them in warehouses after the US imposed an arms ban on the East Asian country over its close ties with China and alleged human rights issues.

"I order all army units to immediately review arms and military items that Cambodia currently has. (We) must recall all US arms and military items if there are any -- put them in warehouses or destroy them accordingly," Hun Sen declared Friday in a Facebook post.

"(The US arms embargo) is a warning message to the next generation of Cambodians who lead the government that if they want an independent defense sector, please don't use US weapons," he emphasized.

Downplaying the quality of US-made armaments and military hardware, the Cambodian prime minister also insisted that “a lot of those who use US arms lost wars," citing Afghanistan as a case in point.

Washington imposed an arms embargo on Cambodia on Wednesday, citing unspecified Chinese activities there, as well as purported concerns about human rights and corruption in the southeast Asian country.

According to an official statement released on the move, the measures taken by the US State and Commerce departments were aimed at restricting access to "defense articles and defense services" by Cambodia's military and intelligence agencies.

Western press reports have accused the Cambodian prime minister of being “one of China's closest partners in Asia,” further alleging that his government has been dismantling facilities at the Ream base, which were built partially with American funds and are used to host US military drills in the region.

The Sihanoukville-base on the Gulf of Thailand, the reports add, has been a running sore in US-Cambodia relations in recent years, with Washington “suspecting” that it is being converted for use by Beijing.

Hun Sen, however, has repeatedly denied his country would host the Chinese military at the base.

Also last month, Washington imposed sanctions against two Cambodian officials for corruption allegations linked to a US-funded naval base.

In face of China’s rising influence and role in political, economic and military engagements across the globe, the administration of US President Joe Biden has increasingly resorted to hostile efforts against Beijing under the pretext of “human rights concerns.”

In the latest of such efforts, Washington announced earlier this week the “diplomatic boycott” of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, over alleged human rights abuses.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki made the announcement on Monday, claiming that the Biden administration would not contribute to the "fanfare" of the Olympics.

"US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC's [People's Republic of China] egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang," she asserted. "We simply can't do that."

China reacted fiercely to the move and threatened retaliation against the US boycott, further warning that the move could imperil bilateral relations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman also declared at a press briefing on Tuesday that it had launched "solemn representation" with the US, vowing to take "resolute countermeasures."

"Out of ideological bias and based on lies and rumors, the US is trying to disrupt the Beijing Winter Olympics. This will only expose its sinister intention and further erode its moral authority and credibility," Zhao Lijian said.

"The wrong move of the US has undermined the foundation and atmosphere for China-US sports exchanges and Olympic cooperation. It has shot itself in the foot. The US should understand the grave consequences of its move," he added.

Relations between the world’s two biggest economies have remained strained over a range of issues from trade to security to the COVID-19 pandemic.


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