China Shows Off Robot ‘Dogs of War’ In Cambodia Drills

Chinese military forces have just displayed its advanced machine gun-equipped battle “dogs” just this Thursday. This was done at the beginning of its largest and biggest-ever drills with forces from Cambodia, as United States fusses over China’s rapidly growing and strong influence in the Southeast Asian country.

Cambodia has long been a close ally of China, benefiting from billions of dollars in Chinese investments. Washington fears that China may use a Cambodian naval base it is upgrading on the Gulf of Thailand to extend its regional influence.

Over 2,000 troops, including 760 Chinese military personnel, are participating in these drills at a remote training center in central Kampong Chhnang province and at sea off Preah Sihanouk province. The 15-day exercise, named Golden Dragon, involves 14 warships (three from China), two helicopters, and 69 armored vehicles and tanks. The drills include live-fire exercises, anti-terrorism training, and humanitarian rescue missions.

One of the highlights of the drills is the “robodogs” — remote-controlled, four-legged robots equipped with automatic rifles. These robot dogs were shown walking, but their shooting capabilities were not demonstrated.

Cambodian armed forces commander-in-chief Vong Pisen said that the exercises would “enhance the capabilities” of both armies in fighting terrorism and the country would also not allow any foreign military bases on its territory, aligning with previous statements by Cambodian leaders.

The US concern grew after Cambodia dismantled facilities at Ream naval base, near Sihanoukville, which were partially funded by the US and had hosted US military exercises. China then began funding the renovation of Ream.

In December, two Chinese warships docked at Ream for the first time since the renovations began, further alarming Washington. The US argues that Ream could provide China with a strategic position in the Gulf of Thailand, near the disputed South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely.

Last year, Cambodian officials denied that a new 363-meter pier at Ream was intended for aircraft carriers. Earlier this week, Cambodian army spokesman Thong Solimo stated that the 2024 exercises are the largest of their kind and are fully funded by China. The first Golden Dragon drills took place in 2016, and in early 2017, Cambodia stopped a similar joint exercise, “Angkor Sentinel,” which had been held with US forces for seven years.

Recently, Cambodia’s defense ministry confirmed that two Chinese warships anchored at Ream were there to train Cambodian naval personnel and prepare for the Golden Dragon exercises. They denied that Chinese troops would be permanently stationed at the base. A third Chinese warship arrived in Sihanoukville on Monday with troops and materials for the drills.

These exercises follow a three-day visit by China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, to Cambodia in April, aimed at strengthening the ties between the two nations.

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