Foreign Minister Hor Namhong is in Kuala Lumpur to participate in the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting, just as increasing tensions between China and Asean over island building in the South China Sea entered the spotlight yesterday.
Malaysia’s foreign minister said yesterday that the South China Sea issue – on which Cambodia has been accused of siding with China after a rocky Asean summit in Phnom Penh in 2012 – had been “discussed extensively”, over protests from Beijing.
Prime Minister Hun Sen recently indicated a desire for Cambodia to act as mediator, and said on Monday that Cambodia was “blamed for having a China bias, but I am not biased at all and I need Asean and China to continue negotiating”.
He also encouraged all parties to make progress on the Code of Conduct (COC), a set of principles to resolve the dispute.
Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert at the University of New South Wales, said he did not think Cambodia was well positioned to be a mediator as Manila “views them with extreme suspicion”.
“Even if the 10 Asean ministers were united they could not move China one inch on the COC.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP