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State Department Sees More Engagement on Horizon

Cambodian Ambassador Hem Heng shakes hand with US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, (file photo).

The US wants to see a peaceful solution to the current border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia, a senior US State Department official said Tuesday.

Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told a forum at the Center for International and Strategic Study in Washington, that the US also encourages more dialogue between the two sides, and Indonesia, which has acted as an interlocutor in the dispute since February.

Campbell’s remarks were part of a renewed engagement effort by the US in Southeast Asia, including initiatives with Asean. However, he acknowledged that the US has had less engagement with Cambodia and Laos than other countries, but he said he hoped to see an increase in coming years.

“We have put in place a schedule of strategic engagement which frankly has been remarkably productive,” he said. “We look to take these to the next step in the course of the next year or so.”

The US has worked “closely” with Indonesia, he said, to help solve a the border dispute, which has led to two sides to deadly clashes in February and April.

As the current head of Asean, Indonesia has tried to mediate the dispute and to send a monitoring mission to the border.

Meanwhile, officials are now awaiting a clarification from the International Court of Justice on a 1962 decision over Preah Vihear temple that could help delineate disputed border areas.