The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific is visiting Cambodia on a get-to-know-you mission, designed to find out what the U.S. military can do to help the country rebuild its armed forces. VOA Pentagon Correspondent Al Pessin is traveling with the commander, and filed this report from Siem Reap.
Admiral William Fallon says the U.S. military relationship with Cambodia is in its early stages. But in a VOA interview, he said the relationship could play an important role, as Cambodian leaders continue to work to rebuild their country after the devastation of Khmer Rouge rule and the years of instability that followed.
"I have had interaction with their military leadership, their defense leadership. Their chief of defense, who I hope to see again, General Ke (Kim Yan), was in Hawaii several months ago, and visited with me, and, frankly, he asked for whatever help we can give them to help them re-establish some kind of a military, to provide security for the country and to help them rebuild themselves."
Admiral Fallon is also visiting other southeast Asian countries in an effort to expand U.S. military relations and promote stability in the region.
"The major purpose of the visit is to be personally acquainted with people that I have only met infrequently, or have not met at all, and to assess for myself just what we can do to help."
On Friday, in Vietnam, the U.S. Pacific Commander urged senior leaders to expand their military contacts with the United States to include joint exercises on search and rescue at sea. But in a day-long series of meetings, Vietnamese leaders appeared to be reluctant to do that.
Defense Minister Colonel General Phung Quang Thanh told Admiral Fallon, military relations with the United States is a very sensitive issue in Vietnam, and with some other countries, an apparent reference to China. Vietnamese leaders want to increase the number of meetings their senior military officers have with their American counterparts, but are taking a go-slow approach toward working-level interaction.
Admiral Fallon arrived in Cambodia's tourism capital, Siem Reap, and will meet with senior officials in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.