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ASEAN Summit: Belt and Road initiative back on track as China announces infrastructure projects

Phnom Penh: China has announced approval for infrastructure projects in mainland Southeast Asia at this year's round of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits. Beijing's announcement on Thursday indicated that Belt and Road initiative is back on agenda after almost three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, VOA News reported.
The infrastructure projects announced by China include a $1.6 billion expressway to be developed from Phnom Penh to Bavet at the Cambodian - Vietnamese border. In addition, Beijing announced support for a rail link between Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Vientiane, from where a high-speed rail link has already been made into China, as per the VOA News report. During the signing ceremony, Cambodian Public Works and Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said that the expressway will connect with Vietnam's expressway between Ho Chi Minh City and the Moc Bai border gate with Bavet.
Chanthol said that both projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2026 or early 2027. He said that the projects will help to create a key link with Asian Highway 1, connecting China through Myanmar to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Sun Chanthol announced that the length of the expressway will be 138 kilometres and will include one long bridge. He said that the estimated cost for the construction of the expressway is less than that of the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway.
On Wednesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinese Premier Li Keqiangon inaugurated the Chinese built, 187 kilometres long expressway from the capital to Sihanoukville, which reduced the five-hour-long road trip by half.
"The expressway will be 138 kilometres long, with one long bridge," VOA News quoted Sun Chanthol as saying.
"The estimated cost is just a little less than that of the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, though its length is shorter," he added.
As per the VOA News report, the expressways are expected to connect the new Phnom Penh international airport, which is being built under the Belt and Road Initiative by the China Construction Third Engineering Bureau Group Co. The Phnom Penh international airport is expected to be functional by 2025.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiangon signed off on 18 protocols with Cambodia, including health care, and support for Phnom Penh which is hosting Southeast Asian Games next year. He announced assistance to improve the better the livelihoods of "Cambodian citizens," as per the news report. Among these, five protocols also supported road and bridge construction which will create a web of transportation - rail, road and waterway in Cambodia.
Li's announcement comes after an agreement was signed between Cambodia's PM Hun Sen and Chinese President Xi Jinping in March to promote the Belt and Road Initiative by developing more physical infrastructure in Cambodia. Many of the projects were put on hold due to China's strict COVID-19 policies and "rising anti-China sentiment" which was witnessed before the emergence of the pandemic, VOA News reported citing analysts. (ANI)

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