Prime Minister Hun Sen lauded the “historic” meeting between North and South Korea on Monday, but claimed the continued presence of US troops on the Korean Peninsula could undermine steps towards nuclear demilitarisation.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the South’s president, Moon Jae-in, agreed last weekend to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula and pledged to negotiate a peace treaty after decades of war.
“This thing with North and South Korea is the best thing in the world,” Hun Sen said in a speech to graduating students. “Half a century after [war broke out] the Korean brothers came to negotiate . . . The compromise will lead to the dissolution of the use of nuclear weapons.”
“The question is; will the US withdraw their troops? If not, North Korea will not abandon their nuclear program.”
However, the North recently dropped its longstanding demand for the withdrawal of US military forces as a condition of denuclearisation, according to the South Korean president. Cambodia’s US Embassy declined to comment.
Cambodia is one of a handful of countries that has diplomatic relations with the isolated North Korean regime, along with Germany, the UK, Russia and Sweden, as well as regional neighbours Malaysia, Laos and Vietnam.
But the premier’s praise of the Korean negotiations did not appear to match his less conciliatory rhetoric domestically, according to Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.
“It’s sad that PM Hun Sen can find a way to laud the growing rapprochement between North and South Korea but he doesn’t see that by banning the CNRP and systematically violating human rights he is creating huge divisions at home,” he said.
Hun Sen has repeatedly said he will not negotiate with the remnants of the Cambodia National Rescue Party since the party was forcibly dissolved in November to international outcry.
Meanwhile, former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy encouraged Hun Sen to negotiate with the opposition but said the premier was “more and more afraid of losing power”, while expressing hope that US President Donald Trump would take a strong stance against Hun Sen.