Cambodia hails US ties, seeks relief on China-linked sanctions

Cambodia hails US ties, seeks relief on China-linked sanctions

FILE PHOTO: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken(right) meets with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn at the State Department in Washington D.C. on May 13, 2022. (AFP)
FILE PHOTO: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken(right) meets with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn at the State Department in Washington D.C. on May 13, 2022. (AFP)

Cambodia said ties with the US had improved significantly and it expects the Biden administration to lift sanctions imposed over its ties with China “very soon”, a senior minister said on Wednesday.

“We’re pushing very hard,” Kao Kim Hourn, Cambodia’s minister delegate to the country’s long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, referring to negotiations over sanctions.

“This is the best point we’ve had in our relationship in the past 72 years,” he said. “Bilateral trade and investment are rising and the leaders have met. We hope that we can achieve much more progress on some areas based on mutual respect.”

President Joe Biden hosted leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington earlier this month, as part of a broader US push to counter Chinese influence in the region. As current chair of the grouping, Cambodia will host a series of summits in November, which Biden is expected to attend.  

Cambodia-US relations have been tense of late, with the Asian nation’s move toward China in recent years further straining ties. The US imposed an arms embargo on Cambodia over its connections with China and human rights abuses last year. That followed reports in 2019 that Beijing signed a secret agreement allowing its armed forces to use one of the country’s naval bases. 

While Cambodia and the Chinese military has denied those reports, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on involved companies and individuals, including two senior Cambodian defence officials, related to the base.

Still, Kao Kim Hourn said he believes a reconciliation with the US was imminent despite “some misunderstandings” in certain areas.

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