Ahead of Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s state visit to Cambodia on December 21-22, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn praised the progress made in relations between the two countries in recent years.

Sokhonn was speaking at the conclusion of the 19th meeting of the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Commission on Economic, Cultural, Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which he co-chaired with his Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son via video conference on December 19.

“Cambodian and Vietnamese relations have prospered despite some regional and global challenges in the last few years. We are looking forward to the upcoming official visit to Cambodia by President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to celebrate the 55th Anniversary of Cambodian-Vietnamese diplomatic relations,” he said in a Facebook post on December 19 after the meeting.

The 19th Joint Commission reviewed the progress made in the implementation of the agreed minutes from the previous meeting while also charting the future direction of bilateral relations in order to further strengthen the close coordination and expand the scope of cooperation between the two countries.

In a press release on December 18, the foreign ministry said that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the virtual Joint Commission Meeting demonstrated the strong commitment of both sides to strengthening their cordial relations and comprehensive partnership in the spirit of traditional friendship and amity between neighbours for the mutual benefits of the two peoples.

During his two-day visit, President Phuc will be granted royal audiences by King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk at the Royal Palace.

Phuc will have separate meetings with Senate president Say Chhum, National Assembly president Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

He will also preside over a groundbreaking ceremony for the new administrative building of the National Assembly along with Samrin.

“The state visit of President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to the Kingdom will further strengthen and deepen bilateral relations under the spirit of good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, comprehensive cooperation, and long-lasting peace and stability between the two countries for the mutual benefits of the two peoples,” said the foreign ministry on December 20.

Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, told The Post on December 20 that the bilateral relations was maintained within the framework of a hedging strategy in which Cambodia maintains good relations with Vietnam for the purposes of cooperation, economics, security and politics.

He said this is also to balance out Cambodia’s close relations with countries that have traditionally been rivals to Vietnam, such as Thailand and China, to prevent the country from becoming entirely reliant upon any one ally.

Vannak said Cambodia was following a soft balancing strategy and that the Kingdom does not depend upon or follow Vietnam like it did in the 1980s but is still trying to maintain a positive relationship overall.

“It means that Cambodia has diversified its economy, diplomacy and politics with other countries, especially with China, in order to reduce the Vietnamese influence that existed in the 1980s so that Cambodia can have enough space to operate freely in the implementation of its foreign policy as an independent state,” he said.