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US vows closer Asean relations

US vows closer Asean relations

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090304_05.jpg

Washington's envoy for regional bloc says last month's visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Asean Secretariat marks the start of a closer engagement in Southeast Asia.

Photo by:
HENG CHIVOAN

Scot Marciel, the American ambassador to Asean, speaks to reporters following bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tuesday.

THE United States will intensify its relationship with Cambodia and other Asean member states under the Obama administration, the US ambassador to the regional body said Tuesday.

Following bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Ambassador Scot Marciel said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta last month heralded a stronger Southeast Asia orientation in US foreign policy.

"She [visited]... to highlight the very strong attachment United States places on Asean and our relationship with Asean and all its member nations," he told reporters after the meeting.

Marciel said that the talks had focused on continuing US support to Cambodia during the current global economic downturn and American support for the goals of  "promoting prosperity" and implementing good governance reforms.

While noting that there were "legitimate criticisms" to be made of Asean's progress on human rights, he also acknowledged the progress on the establishment of an Asean Human Rights Body, calling its  inclusion in the Asean Charter a "big step" forward.

"Asean and all the Asean members have made it clear that they are striving to make this a stronger, more effective organisation that has greater international credibility," he said.

"Obviously, the stronger and more credible the human rights body is will reflect strongly on Asean."

Hor Namhong said that while Cambodia did not have a perfect record on human rights, recognition should be given to the government's attempts to improve in that area.

"We are living in an imperfect world, [and] no country is perfect on this matter" the foreign minister said.

"But what is important is the commitment of the Royal Government of Cambodia, with the assistance of all our friends, to help us to take specific measures [on human rights]."

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