German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier will pay a three-day official visit to Cambodia in mid-February as part of his Indo-Pacific tour to enhance political and economic ties and cooperation with the region, according to the presidential office.
Steinmeier will also be accompanied by a business delegation during his February 13-15 visit to the Kingdom.
While in Phnom Penh, he will hold discussions with Cambodian political leaders and representatives from some civil society organisations.
Steinmeier will also visit the site of demining operations that have received German support, see the ongoing repair and conservation work at Angkor Wat, and visit a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide.
Vann Bunna, a geopolitical researcher, said this latest visit by a world leader shows the Kingdom’s growing political and diplomatic influence, which could attract further attention from global and regional powers.
He said that although Cambodia is a small country, it recently raised its influence and profile on the international stage as the rotating chair of ASEAN for 2022 and now appears to be a more credible partner for diplomatic, economic and security initiatives in the region.
"The German president's visit to Cambodia is a demonstration of the effectiveness of Cambodia's diplomatic diversification, meaning that the Kingdom is trying to make more friends and improve existing relations with many countries. Diplomatic diversification helps Cambodia to have more channels for economic, political and security development,” he said.
He added the current Cambodian-German bilateral relations are somewhat limited, as most of them are cultural, educational and agricultural exchanges, especially through German development assistance to Cambodia, on its own and via the EU.
Vanna added that if Cambodia could improve its relations with Germany – which has the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest economy in the world after the US, China and Japan – it would benefit the Kingdom greatly and the Cambodian government may then be able to persuade Germany to reduce EU pressures and sanctions on Cambodia.
"Germany could easily become Cambodia's largest market in Europe under the right conditions," he said.
Cambodia is important for Germany in the framework of the Indo-Pacific region itself, and the Kingdom is increasingly viewed as far more pragmatic than ideological or more similar in outlook to Singapore than China, for example – so it could help Germany by giving its priorities a voice in ASEAN, according to Bunna.
Cambodia will be Steinmeier's first stop on his trip to Asia and his office said he plans to continue on to Malaysia on February 16.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the German president's visit to Cambodia would mark a new beginning in the relationship and cooperation between the two nations, as well as an expansion of foreign policy outreach within Germany's Indo-Pacific political framework, which includes Cambodia.
He added that Cambodia's stance on relations with Germany rests on the fundamental policy of the Kingdom to make friends and strengthen cooperation between all friendly nations, which includes Germany as well as most or all other countries.
“We do not discriminate against any country – all nations are our friends. This visit could be very meaningful for Cambodia in terms of cooperation, friendship, politics and our economy,” he noted.