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Sokhonn, Blinken to co-chair summit

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn during the virtual 23rd ASEAN Political-Security Community Council Meeting on Monday. FORGING MINISTRY

Sokhonn, Blinken to co-chair summit

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will co-chair the second Mekong-US Partnership Ministerial Meeting, which will be held on August 3 via video conference.

The foreign ministers from Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – as well as ASEAN’s secretary general – will also attend the meeting.

In a press release on August 2, the foreign ministry said the meeting will review the progress on cooperative efforts undertaken since the first virtual Mekong-US Partnership Ministerial Meeting on September 11 last year.

It said the meeting will also chart out the partnership’s future direction, and aim to further enhance and promote a stable, resilient, inclusive and sustainably prosperous Mekong sub-region.

The ministry added that all of the foreign ministers will take into consideration the Covid-19 pandemic and the sub-region’s post-pandemic socio-economic recovery in their discussions.

“The 2nd Mekong-US Partnership Ministerial Meeting will demonstrate the strong friendship and successful cooperation between the Mekong countries and the US and explore potential opportunities for tangible and beneficial cooperation contributing to the sustainable development of the Mekong sub-region and to ASEAN Community building efforts,” it said.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post on August 2 that through the Mekong-US partnership, the US has so far helped Cambodia in the education and security sectors as well as the environmental field with natural resources and use of the Mekong waters.

“They unite to address climate change issues because this Mekong-US initiative is mainly focused on climate change. Many projects have been laid out through the Mekong-US mechanisms in which education is also highlighted,” he said.

He added that in this second Mekong-US meeting, the US was perhaps focused mainly on the use of the waters of the Mekong River and perhaps will raise issues regarding China, which is building hydropower dams on their portion of the upper-Mekong.

Phea said he is worried that the lower Mekong-US partnership mechanisms will become another basis for conflict between the US and China. But he also noted that if China and the US compete with each other to win the favour of the lower-Mekong countries, this could benefit Cambodia.

He said Cambodia should maintain its multilateral principles and try to balance between the US and China and other Mekong countries by accommodating each of them where possible. Doing so provides benefits greater than embracing any one single country or attacking or devaluing its relationship with any powerful or neighbouring countries.

“We try to take advantage of all possible forms of these diplomatic initiatives and cooperative frameworks for the sake of our country,” Phea said.

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