Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Analyst warns gov’t over stance on South China Sea

Analyst warns gov’t over stance on South China Sea

A woman walks past a poster of the South China Sea, with the slogan at the bottom reading: China's territory, never to yield an inch of our ground. AFP
A woman walks past a poster of the South China Sea, with the slogan at the bottom reading: China's territory, never to yield an inch of our ground. AFP

Analyst warns gov’t over stance on South China Sea

Cambodia's decision to split with ASEAN over a maritime dispute in the South China Sea “put a spotlight on ASEAN and make[s] every move that Cambodia makes significant”, according to a high-ranking official at the US Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Michael J Green, a former assistant to president George W Bush on Asian security affairs, held a public lecture yesterday to discuss the future of US-China relations and their impact on Cambodia. The lecture was a joint effort between the US Embassy and the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.

Earlier this month, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar refused to issue a joint statement with ASEAN, claiming the issue was between China and the Philippines only. Cambodia also joined China in preemptively dismissing The Hague’s pro-Philippines verdict.

Green said Cambodia’s decision not to stand with ASEAN would undermine the regional organisation. “ASEAN is not dead or finished,” Green said, “but just how much can we expect from them?” Green also expressed concern that if ASEAN is perceived as ineffective, the US would revert back to focusing only on “bilateral relations with the major players”.

Green expressed fears officials at home would be unimpressed with Cambodia’s loyalty to China and may want to focus resources on a more pliable ally.

However, he vowed to vouch for Cambodia back in the US.

“I’m going to make the argument that the US should expand cooperation with Cambodia,” he said.

A strong Cambodia was an independent Cambodia, he said. “The more resilient Cambodia becomes, the better they can resist the influence of more powerful countries.”

Phoak Kung, co-founder and president of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, told the Post over the phone he thought Cambodia’s decision was “unlikely to affect its relations with the US”.

Kung said it was still in the US and Cambodia’s “best interest to strengthen their ties, politically and economically”, adding that “strong relations don’t require both countries to take the same decision on every issue”.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said he was unconcerned about the possibility that Cambodia undermined ASEAN or weakened its relationship with the US.

“We belong to ASEAN, but every issue is different,” he said. “We do not work for US interests or Chinese interests, we work for Cambodian interests”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Quarantine still a must for all arrivals, in next Covid chapter

    Since early May, an average of five to 10 Cambodian people have died from Covid-19 a day with many others testing positive amid the ongoing community outbreak. At the same time, however, hundreds of patients also recovered a day. The first Covid-19 case in Cambodia was

  • US wants 'full access' to Ream Naval Base

    On June 11, the US embassy's Defense Attaché Colonel Marcus M Ferrara visited Ream Nava Base in coordination with Cambodian officials following the recent approval of Prime minister Hun Sen to allay the concerns on Chinese military presence at the base as raised by US Deputy

  • First commercial gold mine online

    Australian miner Renaissance Minerals (Cambodia) Ltd on June 21 began the commercial operation of its $120 million Okvau Gold Project in the northeastern province of Mondulkiri, becoming the Kingdom’s first gold producer. Located in the Okvau area in southwestern Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district, the

  • Jab drive heading to 5 provinces

    The government is set to vaccinate more than 1.2 million people in five provinces after finishing with Phnom Penh and neighbouring Kandal in an ongoing campaign administered by the ministries of Health and National Defence. The five provinces are Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampong Cham

  • New immigration bill targets illegal foreigners in Kingdom

    General Department of Immigration (GDI) officials are discussing revisions to the new draft law on immigration to prevent foreigners from entering Cambodia illegally and to supervise those living in the Kingdom more effectively. The revisions draw wide support among civil society organisations. GDI director-general Kirth

  • Transport minister requests free trial of Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway

    The Ministry of Public Works and Transport held discussions with the company constructing the expressway from Phnom Penh to Preah Sihanouk province to allow drivers to test the road free of charge before an official toll is set. While inspecting the progress of its construction