Chinese premier announces new aid for close ally Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced a large development assistance package for Cambodia on Wednesday, oversaw the signing of 18 agreements on aid and cooperation, and attended the inauguration of a highway constructed with Chinese support.

Li arrived Tuesday for a six-day visit pegged to the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which Cambodia is chairing this year. He is to take part in a series of meetings with Southeast Asian and East Asian leaders.

He also is making a state visit to Cambodia, reflecting the close ties between the two countries. China is a major investor and aid donor for Cambodia, which is Beijing’s closest ally in Southeast Asia.

Li met on Wednesday with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and together they presided over the signing of 18 agreements in areas ranging from road and bridge construction and agricultural trade to education and health projects.

Eang Sophalleth, Hun Sen’s personal assistant, said Li announced that China will provide 200 million yuan ($27.6 million) to help improve Cambodians’ quality of life. He did not elaborate.

China also pledged to continue supporting the restoration of Cambodia’s cultural heritage, increase the number of Cambodian students studying in China, assist in demining activities and help organize next year’s Southeast Asia Games in Phnom Penh, the capital.

Li and Hun Sen presided over the official inauguration of a 190-kilometer (118-mile) expressway connecting Phnom Penh with the country’s main port at Sihanoukville on the Gulf of Thailand. The expressway was built as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development plan covering transportation projects in scores of countries.

The $2 billion expressway was built over three years by the China Road and Bridge Corp. on a build-operate-transfer basis.

Li also is to attend the handover of a historic temple restored with Chinese assistance at the Angkor archaeological site and meet with King Norodom Sihamoni.

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