Prime Minister Hun Sen met with senior diplomats on Tuesday, reminding them that Cambodia will remain neutral in regional conflicts, including those in the South China Sea and on the Korean peninsula.
Cambodia is the head of Asean this year, and as such, “plays a role as coordinator in various conflict in the region, but not to side with one side or the other,” Hun Sen told reporters after meeting 26 ambassadors and eight consuls, according to a spokesman.
A number of Asean countries have conflicts with China over maritime territories in the South China Sea, and Cambodia retains friendly relations with both North and South Korea.
Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Cambodia’s role as the president of Asean means it must move discussions over such conflicts forward.
“If Cambodia does not want to interfere in the South China Sea conflict, Asean members won’t be happy,” he said.
On the other hand, China, which has strong bilateral partnerships with many Southeast Asian nations, including Cambodia, will not want Asean interference, he said.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Hun Sen also reaffirmed Cambodia’s push for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told reporters.
Hun Sen also said he would be seeking new markets for Cambodian products throughout Asean and farther afield, including East Africa and the Middle East, Koy Kuong said.