With reference to the article entitled South China Sea fears laid at US’s door published in The Phnom Penh Post on March 13, I wish to state for the record the three flaws that made the article misleading and draw doubts to the editors’ motives:
1. “The South China Sea will remain a ‘hot issue’ due to US involvement in the region.”
Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon never said that. His general analysis does not intend to a point finger at any particular nation as alleged by the editors of this article. The statement he made during the workshop on March 10 was the same as the general analysis he made on global issues at the Annual Meeting of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation held from February 28 to March 1.
At the meeting, he stated that there were three signs that suggested the South China Sea issue would continue to be a hot topic this year. Firstly, was the statement made by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Secondly was the pledge by US President Donald Trump to increase defence budget that was already the world’s largest. Thirdly was the recalling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling by some ASEAN member states
2. “Sokhon’s comments come at a time when Cambodian officials have begun conspicuously lambasting the US, reviving contentious issues such as the US bombings during the 1970s and Cambodia’s unpaid war era debt.”
The implication of Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon’s general analysis with other institutions’ comments is groundless. These are two separate and totally different issues. One is Cambodia-US bilateral relations while the other is a regional issue.
The article seems to allege that every comment is being made and calculated to launch a concerted attack on the US. This baseless accusation is misleading in regard to the general understanding on the current relations between Cambodia and the US.
3. “Cambodia has consistently backed China in its disputes with neighbours in the South China Sea, blocking ASEAN from issuing statements against Beijing.”
This is the gravest mistake in this article. Cambodia has never supported any country in territorial disputes. As a non-claimant state, Cambodia has very consistent positions in principle, which is permanent neutrality and that the disputes should be settled through peaceful means by parties directly concerned. I look forward to seeing this clarification published in a page of The Phnom Penh Post for the sake of truth.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation