Sunday, September 14, 2008

USS Abraham Lincoln helps growing military relationship between Cambodia and US

Cambodia: US Warship Gives Rare Tour To Cambodian Officials
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Cambodian government and military officials took a rare tour of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier when it sailed through the region on its way home from Iraq, embassy officials said Thursday (11 Sept).

It was the first tour by Cambodian officials of a U.S. aircraft carrier and "another step in the growing military to military relationship" between the two countries, said embassy spokesman John Johnson.

The Cambodian delegation was flown by a U.S. military aircraft from the capital, Phnom Penh, for a four-hour visit Wednesday (10 Sept) on the vessel, which was about 250 miles off the Cambodian coast, Johnson said.

Cambodia's army commander, Gen. Meas Sophea, called the tour "a very special occasion," in a prepared statement.

Mao Has Vannal, head of Cambodian's civil aviation authority, said he'd only seen such military capabilities on television.

"On the return flight, we took off under the force of the catapult system shooting the plane up into the air," he said Thursday. "It was so real compared to what we used to see on the Discovery Channel."

The tour was the latest sign of growing relations between the two countries.

In February, the USS Gary, a guided missile frigate with 200 officers and crew, was the first American military vessel to dock at a Cambodian seaport in more than 30 years.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military heavily bombed suspected communist guerrilla strongholds in Cambodia.

The U.S. backed Cambodia's 1970s military regime led by General Lon Nol until it was toppled by Khmer Rouge rebels. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed fighting Khmer Rouge forces on Koh Tang, a Cambodian island in the Gulf of Thailand, in May 1975. (AP

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