Cambodia will always remain neutral in US-China relations, Prime Minister Hun Sen said
Cambodia will always remain neutral in US-China relations, Prime Minister Hun Sen said

Cambodia will always remain neutral in US-China relations, Prime Minister Hun Sen said

PHNOM PENH, May 14 (Phnom Penh Post / ANN): A day before the special summit between ASEAN and the United States begins, Prime Minister Hun Sen has insisted that Cambodia remain neutral and not choose between the United States and China, as he sought . to allay US concerns about Chinese military presence in Ream naval base.

“We do not have to choose between the United States and China. There is no reason for that. Whether you force me to take one or not, I will refuse,” Hun Sen said as he met with about 2,000 members of the Cambodian diaspora. in Washington, DC.

As chair of ASEAN, Hun Sen will host the summit with US President Joe Biden in Washington from May 12 to 13.

“Our policy goes hand in hand with the Aseans. I would like to draw a line that Cambodia, with any Indo-Pacific or Asia-Pacific initiative, will adhere to three principles: firstly, peace and development, and secondly, not to take any as an enemy, and thirdly, respect the centrality of Asean, “he said. .

She Sen noted that these three principles have been consistently used by Cambodia as a basis for deciding whether the Kingdom would support a regional initiative, and insisted that ASEAN will not support any country that deviates from its own principles.

The Prime Minister then addressed the relationship between Cambodia and the United States and acknowledged that they have reached new heights, despite there being “ups and downs” in the relationship.

He said the good relations had been proved through the establishment of an embassy in Cambodia in 2000, shortly after the Kingdom achieved comprehensive peace. He revealed that he would not have approved the construction of the embassy at the site near Wat Phnom for any other country.

She Sen also highlighted the increase in trade volume between the two countries as another positive factor in the relationship.

He also used his speech to respond to recent US concerns, expressed by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on foreign affairs and international cooperation, Prak Sokhonn on May 12, about what the United States suspected of being the Chinese military presence at Ream Naval Base in Preah Sihanouk province .

She Sen simultaneously sought to quell and dismiss these concerns, calling it “confusion due to misunderstandings”.

He reiterated that the Cambodian constitution does not allow foreign military presence, insisting that the Kingdom does not need foreign troops, saying that the country’s current needs relate to economic investment rather than the military.

She Sen insisted that the Ream Port be used for the repair of patrolling vessels that were previously to be carried out in Vietnam or Malaysia. He said this had always been his plan since 1986, when he first identified the problem of Cambodia lacking a ship repair site.

“Cambodia allows any country that wants to dock there [Ream Port] to do so. USA, France, China, Japan, Australia, UK have already added there. We welcomed them all, ”he said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price had noted that Sherman was concerned about the “impact on regional security” regarding the possible Chinese presence at the naval base.

She Sen noted that this lingering “confusion” on the part of the US had even prompted former US Vice President Mike Pence to write to him for clarification, to which he said he had responded with an explanation.

Cambodia and the United States have been postponing their joint military exercises since 2017, with the Kingdom citing a busy political calendar consisting of local council elections and national elections taking place the following year. The postponement had raised eyebrows among political analysts, who speculated that Cambodia was in fact adapting to China – a hypothesis rejected by Hun Sen.

“I speak honestly: why is it so hard to be a friend of the United States?” he said. ‘It should be hard to be an enemy. But why is it hard to be friends with each other? ” She Sen said.

Yong Kim Eng, chairman of the People’s Center for Development and Peace, noted that neutrality in foreign policy is important for Cambodia as a country that demands “many friends”.

“Whether it’s Cambodia’s relationship with the United States, or China’s influence on Cambodia or the ASEAN region as a whole, what people want to see when it comes to neutrality is the balance of diplomatic relations between all countries, especially the superpower in the region, ” he said.

“He [Hun Sen] is correct to say that Cambodia could not choose [to side with] USA or China as we maintain a neutral position. If we are strong in this neutrality, we will not [be dragged] into the geopolitical competition, ”he added.

She Sen also touched on the Myanmar issue in her extensive discussion, sharing the outcome of her virtual meeting with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, chair of the ruling State Administration Council (SAC), on 2 May. During the meeting, Min Aung Hlaing reportedly urged Hun Sen, as chairman of ASEAN, to urge armed groups in Myanmar to sign a ceasefire agreement.

On May 12, Hun Sen called out to Myanmar protesters who were planning to hold protests against him in the United States, saying such an act was akin to “destroying their own people.”

“If you protest against the ASEAN chair, which is working to help Myanmar now, it is tantamount to destroying your own people. I also want to tell the Cambodian people not to interfere in the Myanmar issue,” he said, referring to to Cambodians who are said to have planned to take part in the protest – Phnom Penh Post / ANN

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