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Japan’s Kishida set for second Cambodia visit to bolster ties

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Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on September 28 a day after Hun Sen paid a last tribute to Shinzo Abe, the late former premier of Japan. SPM

Japan’s Kishida set for second Cambodia visit to bolster ties

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his upcoming November visit to Cambodia would foster greater cooperation between the two countries. He personally asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to support collaboration with Japan within both bilateral and ASEAN frameworks.

Kishida met Hun Sen at the state funeral for the slain former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, held in Tokyo on September 28.

At the meeting, Hun Sen thanked Kishida for his support of the Kingdom’s chairmanship of ASEAN and invited him to personally attend the ASEAN-Japan Summit and the East Asia Summit, to be hosted by Cambodia in November.

Kishida accepted the invitations.

“The November visit of Prime Minister Kishida will strengthen and develop cooperation with Cambodia. He asked me to support collaboration with Japan within both bilateral and ASEAN frameworks,” Hun Sen said in a social media post.

The premier also thanked Kishida for referring to Japan’s contributions to Cambodia as he addressed the recent 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA) in the US’ New York City, particularly through Japanese peacekeeping operations within the Kingdom.

In his own address to the UNGA, Hun Sen said Cambodia would continue to take part in peacekeeping missions under the UN umbrella.

According to Hun Sen’s post, Kishida also thanked the Cambodian government for receiving Japanese naval vessels into the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port back in March.

The two ships – JS Uraga and JS Hirado – were part of the Indo-Pacific and Middle East Deployment 2021 exercise and visited Cambodia to strengthen cooperation and help realise a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”. The ships docked at the port on March 14 with 185 crew aboard.

Crew members carried goodwill exercises with the Royal Cambodian Navy, with a military drill and visit to Ream Naval Base also on the agenda.

The two prime ministers also exchanged views on regional and international issues, including on Myanmar, the South China Sea and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Kishida also mentioned the Korean Peninsula, particularly the North’s nuclear programmes and the abduction of Japanese people, saying that they constitute concerns by Japan and the international community alike.

On Myanmar, he thanked Hun Sen for making every effort to de-escalate the situation there, pledging that Japan would continue to support ASEAN efforts to resolve the crisis.

Hun Sen said Cambodia will continue to work within the ASEAN framework and push for a peaceful solution.

“Despite challenges, we will not give up on this important task. As for the other problems mentioned by the Japanese prime minister, we will continue to work with each other,” he said.

Kishida paid a two-day visit to Cambodia in March to bring the two nations even closer.

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said Hun Sen’s trip to Japan was a solid testament to the closeness of Cambodian-Japanese relations. Japan is an old friend and key development partner of Cambodia, and has assisted the Kingdom in building infrastructure, human resources and its economy alike.

“[Kishida’s] November visit is a strategic one. The visit will expand relations with Cambodia in terms of trade, investment, energy, food, human resource development and peacekeeping in the region and the globe,” he told The Post.

He added that superpower rivalries and geopolitical games meant the Kingdom needed Japan in terms of economic development and to build the capacity of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, particularly for its engagement with peacekeeping under the UN umbrella.

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