Army commander Lieutenant General Hun Manet has expressed optimism that Cambodia-United States military relations will strengthen both armies after meeting with the US’ Brigadier General Jonathan Braga.
Lt Gen Manet is currently in the US under the invitation of Brig Gen Braga, who is commander of the Special Operation Command Pacific, to attend a Pacific Area Special Operation Conference.
In a Facebook post, Lt Gen Manet thanked Brig Gen Braga for the invitation to attend the conference.
“Cambodia-US relationship for a long time has covered all sectors,” he said. “As for the defence sector, we have worked together in the past by conducting training and military exercises covering terrorism, and humanitarian and disaster relief.”
Lt Gen Manet added that he hopes the relationship between both countries will continue to be improved in the future.
Lt Gen Manet left the Kingdom on Monday to attend the conference in Hawaii. He is expected to return to the Kingdom during Khmer New Year.
According to the invitation, this year’s conference is themed “Resilience in Sovereignty”.
“The main focus of PASOC is to reenergise relationships, making new critical connections and examine the efficacy of our individual and collective efforts,” the invitation said. “By way of vignettes presented by subject matter experts, security practitioners and academic from partner nations, we will examine both explicitly and implicitly the various important elements of sovereignty and consequently provide a critical examination of ‘Global Sovereignty.’”
At one point, Cambodia and the US held joint military exercises, but joint-training stopped in 2017.
However, many have speculated that the joint exercises with the US were stopped due to worsening relations between the two nations.
Over the years, Cambodia has been filling the void by conducting military exercises with China.
General Chhum Sucheat, spokesman for the Defence Ministry, yesterday said military relations with the US will improve.
“According to Defence Minister General Tea Banh, we do not have any problems with US military relations,” Gen Sucheat said. “We hope that by attending the meeting, Lt Gen Manet will enhance military relations between both nations, so we can move forward.”
“We suspended military exercises with the US. We will reconsider if there’s some form of sponsorship,” he said, noting that China provides military assistance.
Kin Phea, director general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said US military relations have been getting better since the January visit of Joe Felter, US deputy assistant secretary of defence for South and Southeast Asia.
“Visits are very important, especially when it comes to military relations,” Mr Phea said, adding that the decline in US relations is attributed to the US’ stance on perceived setbacks of democratic and human rights in the Kingdom
“Even if they see that Cambodia’s army is close with China’s army, it doesn’t mean that Cambodia will not have military relations with the US,” he said. “It was the US that took a step back on its relation with us.”
Lt Gen Manet has been actively reinvigorating military relations with foreign countries.
Last month, he visited Russia and met with General Oleg Salyukov, commander-in-chief of the Russian Ground Forces, to discuss cooperation.
After that, Lt Gen Manet visited Bangkok to meet senior Thai military commanders to discuss peace along the Cambodia-Thai border.