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US running out of ideas for engagement with Cambodia

Soun Nimeth / Share:
A Japanese warship which docked at Sihanoukville port in February this year. This was among the other naval vessels which have docked in Cambodia’s port on goodwill, humanitarian and training missions. Supplied

The ongoing US’ allegation on development of Chinese naval base in Ream in Cambodia sounds similar to the allegation regarding the possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) by Iraq back in 2003. The difference is that the allegation against Cambodia was not presented by the Secretary of State at the highest level of the United Nations Security Council just yet.

With growing China’s challenges to the US’ supremacy, the US seems to run out of ideas for engagement with Cambodia other than the two limited agenda: one is “regime change” and another one is “China containment at all costs”.

By its power, the US does have toolboxes full of ideas to disengage with governments that it deems as unfavorable for its strategic geopolitical interest.

However, sadly, it does not have many ideas as to how to maintain friends when its sphere of influence is diminishing and is on the receiving end with regard to its traditional allies who now appear to join hands to isolate the US.

To the US side, one must ask what is the alternative that the US can provide for Cambodia to substitute China completely or partially? Why should Cambodia take the risk of jeopardizing its own national security to serve the geopolitical interest of the US?

Which country in the world would relinquish its national security for the sake of national interest of a foreign government?

By its long standing engagement, the US understands well the national security risks for Cambodia. Nevertheless, the US has never presented itself as an asset for Cambodia but rather as a threat or even a burden for Cambodia’s national security.

The proposition that Cambodia should disengage with China to avoid being attacked by the US is nothing but an invitation to suicide.

To the Cambodian side, one must ask how to remove Cambodia from being constantly under the radar of a “disposable and easy target” by the US to set an example to the world? The answer is nothing but engagement.

Cambodia can only continue to engage and exercise endurance with firmness on principles of sovereignty and independence. It needs to be innovative and flexible in terms of approaches based on the understanding that the US is extremely frustrated with China’s rise.

Cambodia should mobilize all friends, including the US allies, to convince the US that China and the US can peacefully coexist and that it is the only way to maintain peace and stability in the region as well as the world at large.

Cambodia must learn how to convince the US to undertake more constructive and innovative ideas other than promoting regime change in Cambodia and the containment of China.

Soun Nimeth is a Political Analyst based in Phnom Penh.

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