Vietnam, Cambodia commit again not to use territories to harm each other’s security

Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a cooperation document, December 21, 2021.

Vietnam and Cambodia have just issued a joint statement reiterating the principle of security and defense cooperation, under which the two sides pledge not to allow hostile forces to use their territories to harm the other.

This principle was enshrined in a joint statement on December 22, during the two-day visit of Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Cambodia. According to experts, this trip is part of Hanoi’s efforts to maintain influence in the region in the face of Chinese hegemony.

Phuc’s visit comes just two weeks after US President Joe Biden imposed an arms embargo and new export restrictions on Cambodia over what Washington sees as the growing military influence of China’s army, “destroying and threatening regional security,” following China’s support of the construction of the Ream Naval Base in southern Cambodia, which overlooks the Gulf of Thailand.

The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in defense and security on the principle of not allowing any hostile forces to use their territory to harm the other country’s security,” a joint statement from Vietnam said. Nam and Cambodia write.

Last month, Washington also sanctioned two Cambodian officials for corruption at the Ream Naval Base, where US officials have raised concerns about a lack of transparency in China’s construction activities.

In response, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen banned the United States from visiting Ream Naval Base. The Cambodian side also said that Beijing’s support for Phnom Penh to build this base is “for the benefit of Cambodia“, and that the Ream naval base “is not for the Chinese military nor for any other country to use it as their military base.”

The Chinese side said that the US action “smears” the relationship and cooperation between China and Cambodia, and “threats, pressures and imposes” an arms embargo on the Cambodian government. China and Cambodia are “comprehensive strategic cooperation partners and close friends,” said a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Vietnam’s longstanding tension with China over the South China Sea dispute is also on the Hanoi leader’s agenda during his visit to neighboring Cambodia. This official visit by Mr. Phuc shows that Vietnam is trying to maintain its traditional position and influence in the face of China’s expansion in the region, experts told VOA.

From Ho Chi Minh City, Mr. Dinh Kim Phuc, regional political security and expert, commented to VOA:

The issue that China is providing aid to Cambodia to upgrade its military bases causes concern not only for Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries but also for the US.

President Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s trip to Cambodia this time, in addition to tightening solidarity and friendship, Vietnam also seeks assurance of strategic safety for Vietnam in the new situation that Southeast Asia has faced, the South China Sea (Vietnam calls it the East Sea) is lying on the brink of war because of the power competition between major powers.

Will the joint statement between Vietnam and Cambodia be guaranteed or not, will it be complied with? Based on the Vietnam-Cambodia relationship in the past and present, I believe the promise of the Cambodian government is believable,” shared Mr. Dinh Kim Phuc.

On this occasion, Vietnam and Cambodia also reminded the motto “good neighborliness, traditional friendship, comprehensive cooperation, long-term sustainability“, while respecting the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of each country. non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and settle problems arising between the two countries by peaceful means.

The Vietnam-Cambodia Joint Statement read: “The two sides emphasized ASEAN’s common stance on the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea promote dialogue and build trust, exercise restraint, comply with international law, settle disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with international law.”

On December 21, in the presence of President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Prime Minister Hun Sen, Vietnamese Defense Minister Phan Van Giang and Cambodian Defense Minister Samdech Picheysena Tea Banh signed the National Cooperation Plan in 2022, according to the People’s Army website.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh delivered a speech at the National Foreign Affairs Conference on December 15

President Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s trip to Cambodia comes just months after his visit to Laos in September this year, also in an effort to maintain Hanoi’s influence over Vientiane, experts said.

Le Hong Hiep, a senior expert at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, told VOA News: “For Vietnam, relations with Laos and Cambodia play a very important role in all aspects, especially in terms of security – national defense. Therefore, maintaining good relations with these two countries as well as keeping influence to the maximum extent possible is a top priority in Vietnam’s foreign policy.”

Over the past 10 years, this goal has faced significant challenges due to China’s increasing strategic competition in these two countries,” added Hiep. He said that Laos and Cambodia will continue to be important countries “where the strategic competition between Vietnam and China will continue to intensify in the time to come.”

Commenting on the news that China supported Cambodia to upgrade the Ream naval base, a spokesman for the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry said: “As a neighboring country to both China and Cambodia, Vietnam attaches great importance to its neighborly relationship friendly and suitable for both China and Cambodia, and wishes that China-Cambodia relations make positive contributions to peace, security, stability, and prosperity in the region.

Vietnamese media announced that 2022 will be a year of “deep political significance” in Vietnam-Cambodia relations, with the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and also the 45th anniversary of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s “Path to overthrowing the genocidal regime of Pol Pot.” (Translated)