BEIJING (AP) - China said Thursday that its relationship with Cambodia has made positive contributions to regional peace and stability, after the United States raised concerns about the presence of the Chinese military in the Southeast Asian nation. In a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday, US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman focused on China's construction of new facilities at the Ream naval base. She asked for clarification on the demolition of two US-funded buildings in Ream without notice or explanation, and "noted that a (Chinese) military base in Cambodia would undermine their sovereignty, threaten regional security, and negatively affect US-Cambodian relations. "according to the State Department. In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China and Cambodia enjoyed "traditional friendship" and were "comprehensive cooperation and strategic partners." "The two sides have carried out fruitful cooperation in various fields, which has brought tangible benefits to the two peoples and made positive contributions to regional peace and stability," Wang told reporters in a daily briefing. The State Department said Sherman urged Cambodian leaders to maintain an independent and balanced foreign policy, "in the best interest of the Cambodian people."
Sherman raised the issue again during a visit to Thailand on Wednesday, saying he had candid conversations with Hun Sen "about the direction the country is heading," including China's presence in Ream and Cambodia's human rights and the "undemocratic record". Ream faces the Gulf of Thailand that lies adjacent to the South China Sea, where China has aggressively asserted its claim to virtually the entire strategic waterway. The United States has refused to acknowledge China's broad claims, and the Navy's Seventh Fleet routinely sails beyond the Chinese-controlled islands in what it calls freedom of navigation operations. China was the main sponsor of the murderous Pol Pot regime in Cambodia and has maintained strong relations with Hun Sen, who has ruled for more than 30 years and has become increasingly repressive. Cambodia has also reliably blocked criticism of China within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.