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Sokhon Heralds Golden Age of US-Cambodia Relations, Leaving Analysts Puzzled


Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel (R) and Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn smile before a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 27, 2016.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel (R) and Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn smile before a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 27, 2016.

The ministry issued a statement on Monday, following a meeting between Russel and Sokhon, saying “the relationship between both nations has never been this intimate”.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhon has lauded what he described as an increasingly intimate relationship with Washington, following a visit to the country last week by a top U.S. envoy.

Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, visited Cambodia late last month and called for a “conducive environment” for elections to take place in 2018.

The ministry issued a statement on Monday, following a meeting between Russel and Sokhon, saying “the relationship between both nations has never been this intimate”.

Both Sokhon and Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry were unavailable for comment.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has regularly criticized the United States for what it says is interference in the country’s domestic affairs.

Chheang Vannarith, chairman of the Cambodia Institute of Strategic Studies, said in reality the US-Cambodia relationship is strained and suffers from a “lack of trust”, while Cambodia continues to grow closer to China.

“The different value of human rights and democracy is the main barrier to both nations for building trust. However, the situation will change if the [opposition] win the next election”.

Deth Sok Oudom, a professor of International Relations, said Cambodia would be wise to balance its relationships with both the US and China to avoid an over-reliance on a single world power.

“To strengthen the country, as a small country, we should cooperate with the other ASEAN countries in order to prepare an international political policy that leads to a balance between the two powerful countries,” he said.

US Embassy spokesman Jay Raman said, “While friends can disagree, we acknowledge the importance of maintaining discussions and consultations on various issues.”

“We are looking forward to providing assistance to Cambodia government to order to form a free and fair election.

“The US will encourage Cambodia to maintain good relations and cooperation with its neighbors to ensure the stability in the region. We also welcome the stable, peaceful and wealthy China who will serve as a constructive role in regional and international affair.,” he added.

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