Daniel Kritenbrink, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, has postponed a visit to Cambodia and Laos originally scheduled for May 1-7 due to a positive Covid-19 test.
“After experiencing symptoms, I, unfortunately, tested positive for Covid-19,” he tweeted through the Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Twitter account on May 1.
“Sadly, this means that I am postponing my trip to Cambodia and Laos and will quarantine at home. I look forward to the opportunity to travel to both countries in the future,” he added.
US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy tweeted a reply, telling Kritenbrink to get well soon and saying he looks forward to a future opportunity to host him in Cambodia.
The US Department of State said in a statement on April 29 that during his visit to Cambodia, Kritenbrink was scheduled to meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn and “other senior officials” along with “youth and civil society leaders” to discuss Cambodia-US ties and US support for the Kingdom as the ASEAN chair this year.
In Laos, Kritenbrink was to lead the US-Laos Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and discuss closer cooperation, aiming to “forge deeper connections” with the country as it is the Mekong-US Partnership co-chair this year.
Kritenbrink had also planned to meet with Mekong River Commission (MRC) officials and “engage” with alumni of the Department of State exchange programmes, the statement said.
“The visits will highlight US commitment to two of the youngest and most dynamic societies in the region, reinforcing ASEAN centrality and underscoring the United States’ commitment to the Mekong-US Partnership to address transboundary challenges while promoting a secure, open and prosperous Mekong sub-region,” it said of the now-cancelled itinerary.
Kritenbrink was also planning to discuss the upcoming ASEAN-US Special Summit to be hosted by US President Joe Biden in Washington DC on May 12-13, with Prime Minister Hun Sen as co-host.
On April 30 – one day before Kritenbrink found out he had caught the coronavirus – he tweeted that he was looking forward to visiting Phnom Penh and the Lao capital Vientiane to better understand the issues facing the Mekong and to find opportunities to expand prosperity and freedom in the Indo-Pacific.
The US embassy in Cambodia said in a Facebook post on April 30 that it was looking forward to hosting Kritenbrink’s visit to Phnom Penh, which would have highlighted the US’ commitment to the Cambodian people and its continued support for Cambodia as ASEAN chair. In his invitation addressed to Hun Sen, Biden wrote that the world is facing unprecedented challenges at this time but also finding new opportunities.
It further said that the US and ASEAN have joined together to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and thereby strengthened regional health systems, increased their collective climate ambitions and cooperated to promote supply chain resilience.
“At the summit, we will commemorate 45 years of enduring partnership and raise our collective ambitions for a new age of US-ASEAN relations. I look forward to welcoming you and the other ASEAN leaders to the White House,” Biden wrote.