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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — China said Friday its financial assistance to Cambodia is in no way dependent on that country’s support on diplomatic and political issues, such as Beijing’s dispute with other Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.

A Foreign Ministry statement faxed to The Associated Press said that China and Cambodia are important partners who have “for a long time and from beginning to end engaged in sincere cooperation, mutual support and mutual assistance.”

“I wish to point out that assistance provided by China comes with no political conditions and is widely welcomed by the Cambodian people,” the statement said.

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang commented on a recent Associated Press report about a $600 million aid package provided by Beijing to Cambodia that referenced the close relationship between the countries.

State media quoted Lu saying China’s aid should not be hyped-up or viewed through “tinted glasses.”

Cambodia’s prime minister announced last week that the Chinese assistance to his government would go to support the country’s election infrastructure, education and health.

Last month, Cambodia deported 39 suspected criminals to China, including 25 Taiwanese, over whom Beijing insists it has jurisdiction despite protests from self-ruled Taipei.

Along with Laos, Cambodia is a close ally of China within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and has backed China in rejecting an international arbitration panel’s ruling issued last week that invalidated China’s claim to a vast area of the South China Sea.