China and Cambodia have launched their first-ever joint naval drills as the two Asian nations continue to forge stronger ties despite objections from Washington.
The drills, named China-Cambodia Golden Dragon 2023, began on March 20 and will be held through April 8. About 3,000 military personnel from both nations will participate in the exercises.
Last year, the Chinese and Cambodian militaries signed a memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation. Officials said at the time that the future cooperation would include military exercises, training, and other exchanges.
The military agreement came after the Biden administration slapped sanctions on Cambodia over its relationship with China. The US sanctioned two Cambodian officials in 2021 due to Chinese construction at the Ream Naval Base, which the US claims will lead to a Chinese base in Cambodia, an allegation Pnom Penh has denied.
The US later imposed an arms embargo on Cambodia, but the pressure has not deterred Phnom Penh from moving closer to Beijing. Cambodia and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have found themselves at the center of the new Cold War between the US and China.