CHINA / National

China pledges $600 million to Cambodia
Updated: 2006-04-09 09:57

China pledged US$600 million (euro492 million) in aid to Cambodia on Saturday, the last day of Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to the impoverished Southeast Asian country, a government official said.

Wen and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also held talks and presided over the signing of 11 bilateral agreements, said Sri Thamrong, an adviser to Hun Sen.

"If we put the figure of loans and grants together we have received from China today about US$600 million," Sri Thamrong told reporters.

He said about US$200 million (euro164 million) is a low-interest loan for building two bridges.

Wen and Hun Sen held talks behind closed doors, and the signing of the agreements was off-limits to foreign media. Neither spoke to reporters after their meeting.

They also took part in a groundbreaking ceremony for a Chinese-funded office complex for Hun Sen and his deputies.

The project is estimated to cost about 400 million yuan (US$49 million; euro40 million) and is expected to be completed in 2008.

The event and the new aid pledges were seen as a symbol of China's deepening influence in Cambodia.

China has maintained a high profile in Cambodia despite its previous strong backing of the Khmer Rouge regime that caused the deaths of some 1.7 million people in the late 1970s.

Hun Sen has described China as Cambodia's "most trustworthy friend."

In return, Beijing has rewarded his government with millions of dollars in aid over the last decade, agreed to write off past debts and granted it tariff-free status for some 400 items.

Investments by Chinese companies in Cambodia were worth some US$240 million (euro197 million) last year, more than from any other nation. Most Chinese investments were in the garment industry, Cambodia's main foreign exchange earner.

Cambodia last year awarded a US$280 million (euro230 million) contract to the Chinese state-run company Sinohydro Corp. to build a hydropower plant in the country's southwest.

Wen was to hold talks with King Norodom Sihamoni before ending his visit later Saturday.