US’ Kritenbrink strengthens ties in Cambodia, SE Asia

US’ Kritenbrink strengthens ties in Cambodia, SE Asia

US Department of State assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink said he had a range of “productive conversations” with Prime Minister Hun Manet on how the US and Cambodia can deepen their relationship and address contentious issues.

During his February visit to Phnom Penh, Kritenbrink met with Manet and Minister of National Defence Tea Seiha.

“I did have the opportunity to meet with Manet and we had a very productive, very positive and very candid meeting,” Kritenbrink said during an online press briefing on March 7.

“We discussed a number of ways in which we would like to both deepen and expand the existing cooperation between the US and Cambodia, but also address certain areas of concern,” he added.

Kritenbrink said the meeting involved wide-ranging discussions on the full spectrum of issues concerning the two nations.

“Now, on the positive side, this includes our cooperation on North Korea UN sanctions enforcement, condemning Russia for its war of aggression against Ukraine, and other cooperative areas including law enforcement,” he said.

“We also candidly addressed areas of difference, including issues such as human rights, human trafficking and creating space for free and independent media,” he said.

Kritenbrink also reiterated to Manet that the US remains committed to the Cambodian people and their aspirations for a more prosperous, democratic and independent country where all voices are heard and respected, and where the Kingdom’s sovereignty is protected.

According to Manet’s social media post, during the meeting, Kritenbrink highlighted the US’ position to continue working closely with Cambodia to further strengthen and expand cooperation, especially as the Kingdom will be a facilitator for dialogue between ASEAN and the US from July 2024 to July 2027.

“Kritenbrink also praised the government’s position on regional and international affairs. Both sides discussed the strengthening and expansion of cooperation between the two countries in areas of mutual benefit, including trade, investment, people-to-people exchange, national defence and security,” said the post. 

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post that Kritenbrink’s visit and his meeting with Cambodia’s leadership underscored the US commitment to the Indo-Pacific.

He said this strengthened the US position in the region amidst geopolitical rivalry between China and the US.

Kritenbrink travelled to Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei from February 23 to March 4 to underscore the US’ strong and enduring commitment to its allies and partners in Southeast Asia.

He said during the briefing that his trip is a reaffirmation of how proud he is of the US’ efforts to strengthen its partnerships across all of Southeast Asia, as well as its strong relationship with ASEAN.

“These relationships continue to be critical to American national security and prosperity. As the US, we are always looking for ways to boost our cooperation and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the Indo-Pacific,” he stated.

“We believe [this] is the region where much of the history of the 21st century will be written. Perhaps more than anything, I was incredibly gratified by the close strategic alignment between the US and our partners in the region in tackling our shared priorities together,” he added.  Phnompenhpost

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