CHINA - Premier Li Keqiang pledged to support Cambodia on Thursday as the Southeast Asian country aims for a greater role in regional and international affairs.
Li made the remarks in a meeting on Thursday with Hor Namhong, Cambodia's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, who is in China to attend the first meetings of an inter-governmental coordination committee recently created by the two countries.
Li said the first committee meeting added new impetus to deepening bilateral cooperation. He said China supports Cambodia in developing its economy and in its growing role in regional and international affairs. The two countries are currently pushing to expand their strategic partnership.
Li reiterated China's determination to steadily advance and push for further economic reforms in 2014.
He said that the new changes in the global economy have exerted complex and multiple effects on emerging economies and that China will continue to seek a "golden mean" between GDP growth and reform.
Hor Namhong said China's economic growth is beneficial for regional prosperity and that the country will carry out the agreements hammered out on Thursday.
According to a news release, the two countries have signed memorandums of understanding and deals on aviation transportation. China and Cambodia have also made a number of deals in trade, agriculture, national defence, law enforcement safety and people-to-people exchanges.
The intergovernmental coordination committee, which was set up in April last year, is headed by Yang Jiechi, China's state councilor in charge of foreign relations, and Hor Namhong.
Yang, China's top negotiator at the meeting, said China will "unswervingly" deepen its strategic relationship with Cambodia and support Cambodia's stability and rapid development.
Li's meeting with Hor Namhong was the premier's first meeting with a foreign politician this year. Analysts said the meeting demonstrates that China's diplomatic priorities this year are still focused on neighbouring countries.
Cambodia is widely seen as China's key ally on the South China Sea issue.
Song Huiying, a researcher from China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the coordination committee is a "natural result" of the countries' efforts to expand their long-standing friendship and cooperation.
She said although Cambodia is not a key stakeholder in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it has some influence over the issue as an important Southeast Asian country.
"Cambodia holds a relatively objective position on the issue. It is being rational in the dispute and is willing to keep regional peace for the sake of its own long-term development. I think it is the stance that any rational countries would take," she said.