Picking Up the Pieces After Hanoi


March 19, 2019

Picking Up the Pieces After Hanoi

by Richard N. Haass

The collapse of last month’s summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was perhaps the inevitable result of a process in which the two leaders dominated, optimistic about their personal relationship and confident in their abilities. The question is what to do now.

 

NEW YORK – When last month’s summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without a deal, the result was not surprising. One or both countries came to Hanoi with a misunderstanding of what was possible.

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The United States maintained that North Korea wanted nearly all international sanctions lifted upfront and was not prepared to give up enough of its nuclear facilities to warrant doing so. North Korean officials explained that they were prepared to dismantle the country’s main facility, the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, “permanently and completely,” but only in exchange for a considerable reduction in existing sanctions.

The anticlimax in Hanoi was perhaps the inevitable result of a process in which the two leaders dominated, optimistic about their personal relationship and confident in their abilities. Senior officials and other staff members, who normally devote weeks and months to preparing for such summits, had but a limited role.

The question is what to do now. One option is to try to negotiate a compromise: either more dismantling of nuclear infrastructure in exchange for more sanctions relief, or less dismantling in exchange for less relief.

Although one of these approaches may prove possible, either outcome would be less than ideal. Simply agreeing to give up individual nuclear facilities is not the same as denuclearization. Indeed, it does not necessarily even get us closer to denuclearization, because facilities could be built or expanded as others are being dismantled. Precisely this currently seems to be occurring. Meanwhile, lifting sanctions removes the pressure on North Korea to take meaningful steps toward denuclearization.

So what are the alternatives? Using even limited military force risks escalation, a costly war from which no one would benefit, and a crisis in relations between the US and South Korea. And, given North Korea’s demonstrated resilience, existing or even additional sanctions alone are highly unlikely to be enough to coerce its leaders into abandoning their nuclear program.

Moreover, no matter how much pressure is brought to bear on North Korea, China and Russia will likely do whatever is necessary to ensure its survival, given their strategic interest in avoiding a reunified Korean Peninsula aligned with the US. Hopes that North Korea will collapse under its own weight are thus unrealistic.

Trump seems to harbor the equally unrealistic notion that North Korea will voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons in order to become the next Asian economic tiger. But while Kim wants sanctions relief, fundamental economic reform would threaten his tight grip on power, and giving up his nuclear weapons and missiles would make North Korea and himself vulnerable. He has taken note of what happened to Ukraine, which voluntarily relinquished its Soviet-era nuclear weapons in the early 1990s, as well as to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi.

The status quo, however, is no solution. The current testing moratorium could end; indeed, North Korea is threatening to resume tests and there is evidence it is reconstituting its principal missile-testing site. This may be a bid to encourage the US to show more flexibility, or the North may actually be preparing to restart testing – a step that would likely lead the US to resume large-scale military exercises with South Korea and push for new sanctions. Talks would likely be suspended; we would be back to where we were two years ago but with an overlay of recrimination and mistrust.

Even absent such developments, drift is not desirable. North Korea could use the passage of time to increase the number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal and make some improvements to its warheads and delivery systems without overt testing. There is a big difference between a North Korea armed with a handful of inefficient warheads and inaccurate missiles and one with dozens of advanced weapons that could be mounted on accurate long-range missile systems capable of reaching the US.

At this point, any realistic policy must begin with accepting the reality that complete and fully verifiable denuclearization is not a realistic prospect any time soon. It need not and should not be abandoned as a long-term goal, but it cannot dominate near-term policy. An all-or-nothing policy toward North Korea will result in nothing.

So it makes sense to explore a phased approach. In an initial phase, North Korea would agree to freeze not just the testing of its systems, but also the production of nuclear material, nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles. This would require the North Korean authorities to provide a detailed accounting (a so-called declaration) of the relevant facilities and agree to verification by international inspectors.

In exchange, North Korea would receive the sort of substantial sanctions relief it sought in Hanoi. There could also be an end to the state of war that has existed for the past seven decades, and liaison offices could be opened in Washington, DC, and Pyongyang. But full sanctions relief and diplomatic normalization would come only with full denuclearization.

This might well be too much for North Korea, arguably the world’s most closed society. If so, the bulk of the sanctions need to remain in place; they would be lifted only in proportion to any dismantling – and only so long as the world could be confident that North Korea was not developing new capabilities to replace those it was abandoning. The US could specify which sites, in addition to Yongbyon, need to be dismantled.

Even this less ambitious approach would likely prove extraordinarily difficult. But, given the high stakes and unattractive alternatives in dealing with North Korea, any viable route to a settlement that ensures long-term stability is worth pursuing.

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Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003), and was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. He is the author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.


March 16, 2019

Foreign Policy

Diplomacy that is constructive in nature

By Yang Danzhi | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-14 07:12

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In its almost seven-decade-old diplomatic history, the People’s Republic of China has witnessed tremendous changes in international relations. In the initial stages, the essential task of China’s diplomacy was to fit into the world order as an independent sovereign country, and to safeguard its rights and interests while helping international relations to move toward a more equitable and reasonable direction.

Over the past nearly 70 years, China has weathered many a storm in international relations while making great achievements. In fact, New China’s diplomatic history can be broadly divided into three main parts.

Foreign policy aimed at safeguarding core interests

First, China is determined to safeguard its core interests, unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, and committed to moving in the right direction. As the 2011 White Paper on China’s peaceful development said, China’s core interests comprise its sovereignty, security, territorial integrity, the stability of its political system and society as defined by the Constitution, and the basic guarantee of sustainable economic and social development. As a matter of fact, Chinese diplomacy’s main task is to safeguard the country’s core interests.

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The White paper also said China has always followed (and will continue to follow) an independent foreign policy and the path of peaceful development. China pursues an independent foreign policy and follows the path of peaceful development so that it can promote cooperation and peace around the world-especially by using them to settle regional and global disputes-and foster quality development and social harmony at home.

Second, to keep pace with the times and increase its say in global affairs, China has gradually developed an all-round, multi-layered and three-dimensional diplomatic pattern.

In the early 1980s, China sought to establish good relations with countries and create a regional and global environment that would help promote its opening-up policy. It also looked to the West for help to speed up its modernization drive. China has not only engaged with the outside world but also pursued opening-up and win-win cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and consultation, while seeking common ground and shelving differences.

A worldwide web of friendly nations

China has also been advocating building mutual trust and deeper cooperation with other countries in security issues, and resolving international disputes through peaceful negotiations. In doing so, it has won the admiration of the international community and established diplomatic relations with 178 countries.

Third, China has made continuous efforts to make the regional and global governance mechanisms fairer and equitable. In the mid of 1950s, it developed the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence-mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual non-aggression; mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and cooperation for mutual benefit; and peaceful coexistence-which has had a profound influence on the world.

Engagement with other nations to make world a better place

And thanks to the rapid growth in its comprehensive national strength over the past decades, China has intensified its engagement with the international community and increased its contributions to global mechanisms and initiatives for the betterment of humankind. In particular, since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in November 2012, China’s diplomacy has made a series of major achievements in theory and practice guided by the principle of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Moreover, China also pursues common development with African countries based on the spirit of sincerity, results, affinity and good faith, and guided by the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. In the new era, Chinese diplomacy has also been enriched by new concepts and visions, such as the right approach to justice and interests, new type of international relations and win-win cooperation.

China has proactively promoted the construction of global and regional mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative to boost regional cooperation and strengthen multilateral cooperation.

It is therefore clear that China’s diplomacy has advanced with the times and strived to create an atmosphere for peace and development not only in the region but also in the rest of the world. And irrespective of the difficulties and challenges it faces in the future, Chinese diplomacy will forge ahead on the path of peace and development to make greater achievements.

The author is a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views don’t necessarily represent those of China Daily.

BREXIT Marks the END of Great Britain


March 16, 2019

BREXIT Marks the END of Great Britain

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/3/14/brexit-will-mark-the-end-of-britains-role-as-a-great-power

One of the great strengths of democracy is that bad policies are often reversed. That’s a consolation when we look at the flurry of pandering programs being enacted as the populist wave works its way through the Western world. When a new government is elected, things can be undone. Except for Brexit, which, if it goes through, might prove to be the most profound legacy of this decade.

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Britain, famous for its prudence, propriety and punctuality, is suddenly looking like a banana republic as it makes reckless decisions, misrepresents reality and now wants to change its own self-imposed deadline. But if it does leave the European Union, it would be bad news for be bad news for Britain, Europe and the West.

As Martin Sandbu writes in the Political Quarterly, Brexit has always been “a solution in search of a problem.” To me, the best evidence of this is that Britain’s Euroskeptics generally want to leave the E.U. because they see it as a statist juggernaut. In virtually every other member country, Euroskeptics dislike the E.U. because they see it as a free-market juggernaut. So either all of those other countries have it backward, or Britain’s Conservatives have gone nuts.

When I asked my Post colleague Anne Applebaum what historians would look at when trying to understand the road to Brexit, she suggested it all centers on the Conservative Party.

The Tories could probably claim to be the most significant political party of the 1900s, governing Britain for most of the century, producing Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and other iconic Western statesmen.

But after the Cold War, as left-wing parties abandoned socialist ideas and moved to the center, the right faced an identity crisis. It needed to find the kind of clarity and purpose that anti-communism and freedom had provided. In the United States, this mobilized the Republicans to emphasize social and cultural issues such as abortion, gay rights and immigration, which they coupled with an almost religious fury against liberals.

In Britain, Conservatives found themselves in the same mushy middle that Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron inhabited. So, as Applebaum noted, they went radical — on Europe. Of course, there were always Euroskeptics, but they had been a small, eccentric minority within the party. By the midpoint of Cameron’s premiership, they were able to hold the party hostage and force Britain to walk the plank.

We’re all weary of the drama, but keep in mind: Brexit would be a disaster. As Sandbu points out, Britain’s economy is competitive and productive only in high-value manufacturing and services, both of which depend on a deeply integrated market with Europe. Although Britain can and will adjust, Brexit would probably mean a path of slower growth and less innovation for the country and its people.

The foreign policy consequences of Brexit are being discussed least but might prove to be the most consequential. If Brexit does occur, within a few years, Scotland and Northern Ireland would probably loosen their ties to Britain to maintain their association with Europe. The United Kingdom would then be reduced to just England and tiny Wales, not really fitting into any of the three economic blocs of the 21st century — North America, Europe and China. London, a city that has shaped global affairs for 250 years, would become the West’s Dubai, a place where lots of money sloshes around but of no great geopolitical consequence.

Europe would also lose a lot with Brexit. Britain has a large and vibrant economy. But more important,Britain has been a crucial voice in the community for free markets, openness, efficiency and an outward-looking foreign policy. It has been one of the few European countries that has maintained and deployed a powerful army, often for broader global purposes.

As non-Western countries such as China rise, the central question of international relations is: Can the international system built by the West — which has produced peace and prosperity for 75 years — last? Or will the rise of China and India and the revival of Russia erode it and return us to what Robert Kagan calls “the jungle” of international life — — marked by nationalism, protectionism and war? Image result for Britain no longer rules the waves

After BREXIT–Great Britain is no longer GREAT

The world order as we know it was built over two centuries, during the reigns of two liberal, Anglo superpowers — Britain and then the United States. Brexit would mark the end of Britain’s role as a great power, and I wonder whether it would also mark the day that the West, as a political and strategic entity, begins to crumble.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Washington Post 

Lessons from BREXIT


March 10, 2019

Lessons from BREXIT

European citizens need to learn from the Brexit impasse and apply those lessons ahead of and after the European Parliament election in May. That means embracing reforms that advance the three goals that lie at the heart of the European project.

 

PARIS – Never, since World War II, has Europe been as essential. Yet never has Europe been in so much danger. Brexit stands as the symbol of that. It symbolises the crisis of Europe, which has failed to respond to its peoples’ needs for protection from the major shocks of the modern world. It also symbolises the European trap. That trap is not one of being part of the European Union. The trap is in the lie and the irresponsibility that can destroy it.

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Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future? Who spoke to them about losing access to the European market? Who mentioned the risks to peace in Ireland of restoring the former border? Nationalist retrenchment offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative. And this trap threatens the whole of Europe: the anger mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.

We have to stand firm, proud and lucid, in the face of this manipulation and say first of all what today’s united Europe is. It is a historic success: the reconciliation of a devastated continent in an unprecedented project of peace, prosperity and freedom. We should never forget that. And this project continues to protect us today. What country can act on its own in the face of aggressive strategies by the major powers? Who can claim to be sovereign, on their own, in the face of the digital giants?

How would we resist the crises of financial capitalism without the euro, which is a force for the entire European Union? Europe is also those thousands of projects daily that have changed the face of our regions: the school refurbished, the road built, and the long-awaited arrival of high-speed Internet access. This struggle is a daily commitment, because Europe, like peace, can never be taken for granted. I tirelessly pursue it in the name of France to take Europe forward and defend its model. We have shown that what we were told was unattainable, the creation of a European defence capability and the protection of social rights, was in fact possible.

Yet we need to do more and sooner, because there is the other trap: the trap of the status quo and resignation. Faced with the major crises in the world, citizens so often ask us, “Where is Europe? What is Europe doing?” It has become a soulless market in their eyes.

Yet Europe is not just a market. It is a project. A market is useful, but it should not detract from the need for borders that protect and values that unite. The nationalists are misguided when they claim to defend our identity by withdrawing from Europe, because it is the European civilisation that unites, frees and protects us. But those who would change nothing are also misguided, because they deny the fears felt by our peoples, the doubts that undermine our democracies. We are at a pivotal moment for our continent, a moment when together we need to politically and culturally reinvent the shape of our civilisation in a changing world. It is the moment for European renewal. Hence, resisting the temptation of isolation and divisions, I propose we build this renewal together around three ambitions: freedom, protection and progress.

Defend Our Freedom

The European model is based on the freedom of man and the diversity of opinions and creation. Our first freedom is democratic freedom: the freedom to choose our leaders as foreign powers seek to influence our vote at each election. I propose creating a European Agency for the Protection of Democracies, which will provide each member state with European experts to protect their election processes against cyber-attacks and manipulation. In this same spirit of independence, we should also ban the funding of European political parties by foreign powers. We should have European rules banish all incitements to hate and violence from the Internet, since respect for the individual is the bedrock of our civilisation of dignity.

Protect Our Continent

Founded on internal reconciliation, the EU has forgotten to look at the realities of the world. Yet no community can create a sense of belonging if it does not have bounds that it protects. The boundary is freedom in security. We therefore need to rethink the Schengen area: all those who want to be part of it should comply with obligations of responsibility (stringent border controls) and solidarity (one asylum policy with the same acceptance and refusal rules). We will need a common border force and a European asylum office, strict control obligations and European solidarity to which each country will contribute under the authority of a European Council for Internal Security. On the issue of migration, I believe in a Europe that protects both its values and its borders.

The same standards should apply to defence. Substantial progress has been made in the last two years, but we need to set a clear course: a treaty on defence and security should define our fundamental obligations in association with NATO and our European allies: increased defence spending, a truly operational mutual defence clause, and the European Security Council with the United Kingdom on board to prepare our collective decisions.

Our borders also need to guarantee fair competition. What power in the world would accept continued trade with those who respect none of their rules? We cannot suffer in silence. We need to reform our competition policy and reshape our trade policy with penalties or a ban in Europe on businesses that compromise our strategic interests and fundamental values such as environmental standards, data protection and fair payment of taxes; and the adoption of European preference in strategic industries and our public procurement, as our American and Chinese competitors do.

Recover the Spirit of Progress

Europe is not a second-rank power. Europe in its entirety is a vanguard: it has always defined the standards of progress. In this, it needs to drive forward a project of convergence rather than competition: Europe, where social security was created, needs to introduce a social shield for all workers, east to west and north to south, guaranteeing the same pay in the same workplace, and a minimum European wage appropriate to each country and discussed collectively every year.

Getting back on track with progress also concerns spearheading the ecological cause. Will we be able to look our children in the eye if we do not also clear our climate debt? The EU needs to set its target – zero carbon by 2050 and pesticides halved by 2025 – and adapt its policies accordingly with such measures as a European Climate Bank to finance the ecological transition, a European food safety force to improve our food controls and, to counter the lobby threat, independent scientific assessment of substances hazardous to the environment and health. This imperative needs to guide all our action: from the European Central Bank to the European Commission, from the European budget to the Investment Plan for Europe.  All our institutions need to have the climate as their mandate.

Progress and freedom are about being able to live from your work: Europe needs to look ahead to create jobs. This is why it needs not only to regulate the global digital giants by putting in place European supervision of the major platforms (prompt penalties for unfair competition, transparent algorithms, etc.), but also to finance innovation by giving the new European Innovation Council a budget on a par with the United States in order to spearhead new technological breakthroughs such as artificial intelligence.

A world-oriented Europe needs to look towards Africa

A world-oriented Europe needs to look towards Africa, with which we should enter into a covenant for the future, taking the same road and ambitiously and non-defensively supporting African development with such measures as investment, academic partnerships and education for girls.

Freedom, protection and progress. We need to build European renewal on these pillars. We cannot let nationalists without solutions exploit the people’s anger. We cannot sleepwalk through a diminished Europe. We cannot become ensconced in business as usual and wishful thinking. European humanism demands action. And everywhere, the people are standing up to be part of that change.

So, by the end of the year, let’s set up, with the representatives of the European institutions and the member states, a Conference for Europe in order to propose all the changes our political project needs, with an open mind, even to amending the treaties. This conference will need to engage with citizens’ panels and hear academics, business and labour representatives, and religious and spiritual leaders. It will define a roadmap for the EU that translates these key priorities into concrete actions. There will be disagreement, but is it better to have a static Europe or a Europe that advances, sometimes at different paces, and that is open to all?

In this Europe, the peoples will really take back control of their future. In this Europe, the United Kingdom, I am sure, will find its true place.

The Brexit impasse is a lesson for us all. We need to escape this trap and make the upcoming European Parliament elections and our project meaningful. It is for Europe’s citizens to decide whether Europe and the values of progress that it embodies are to be more than just a passing episode in history. This is the choice I propose: to chart together the road to European renewal.

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Emmanuel Macron is President of France.

Cambodian Foreign Policy is headed in the right direction


February 20, 2019

Cambodian Foreign Policy is headed in the right direction

by  Taing Vida / Khmer Times

https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50579745/leng-thearith-says-foreign-policy-is-on-the-right-track/

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 A Cambodian scholar said that Cambodia’s foreign policy towards its neighbours and other countries in the world has been on the right track.

In a Cross Talk interview with Khmer Times on Monday, Leng Thearith, Director of Center for Strategic Studies, said the Kingdom’s foreign policy has improved after the country held its 1993 UN-brokered national election, and has been reformed over the past three years, especially in capacity building and strategic analysis.

Mr Thearith said the Kingdom has good relations with other countries thanks to the government’s efforts in integrating the country into the region as a member of the Asean and the World Trade Organisation.

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However, he said as a small state, Cambodia has limited strategic space to manoeuvre while its foreign policy dynamics face considerable challenges.

“It’s important for a small state like Cambodia to prevent itself from any attack that might be caused by powerful states,” he said. “We must oppose them in order to protect our sovereignty but at the same time, we must cooperate with those states to ensure good relations.”

Mr Thearith said that Cambodia is now seen as apologetically leaning towards China after the government received strong support from China through aid and loans without strings attached, noting that the country’s current approach toward the United States and the European Union will not be helpful in the long run.

“For now, I’m sure that the government is on the right track. Cambodia’s foreign policy’s behaviour changes from time to time,” he said. “Although Cambodia is now leaning towards China, I think the country will change and turn to other developed countries like Japan.”

Mr Thearith said that the government slammed the EU and the US because they meddled in Cambodia’s internal affairs, but later should mend ties for development benefits.

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“For now, the government can turn its back on the EU and the United States because they interfere in the country’s political issue and sovereignty,” he said. “However, in the upcoming years, the government should restore the relations and take advantage of them as development partners.”

The EU last week started the process of intense monitoring and engagement for six months that could lead to the temporary suspension of the EBA trade scheme over perceived human rights setbacks and the decline of democracy following the dissolution of the CNRP.

In response, the Cambodian government condemned the EU trade threat as an extreme injustice, accusing it of using double standards in its treatment of Cambodia.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that the country’s current foreign policy is not on the right track as it is sucked in the Sino-American conflict.

“Now Cambodia is being sucked in the new Pacific war and specially the Sino-American conflict,” he said, noting that the foreign policy behaviour has led Cambodia back to the pre-1970 situation where it was gradually sucked in the then ongoing international conflicts.

Foreign Policy–Dealing with the US and EU : Cambodia’s strategic option(s)


February 13, 2019

Foreign Policy–Dealing with the US and EU : Cambodia’s strategic option(s)

https://www.khmertimeskh.com

by Soun Nimeth
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‘Shopping diplomacy’, arms purchases, and good military cooperation with the US and EU canld help thwart Western criticism of Cambodia’s human rights record. But Soun Nimeth questions whether these are worth the risks, given Cambodia’s bad experiences in the 1970s when it fell into the abyss of a geo-political war.

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US Ambassador to Cambodia William A. Heidt talks to VOA Khmer about the importance of US-Cambodia relations at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on February 10, 2016. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

With the looming geopolitical war, Cambodia is trapped in the center of a power rivalry  between China and the US as well as the latter’s ally, the EU. This is both in terms of strategic contest and economic rivalry.

To recall the 1970s when Cambodia fell in the abyss of a geo-political war, the country now has no reason to feel flattered once again when it is in the cross hairs of the superpowers.

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Despite several attempts, through a direct response to US Vice President Mike Pence’s letter as well as a face-to-face meeting with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia Joseph H. Felter, to assure the US that Cambodia would not allow Koh Kong to be used as a Chinese naval base, the efforts seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks with US President Donald Trump at the ongoing Asean summit in Manila yesterday.

 READ ON: http//www.phnompenhpost.com/national/trump-rein-your-embassy-hun-sen-calls-us-president-warn-diplomats-about-interference

The determination to project Cambodia as China’s proxy state seems to have already been carved in stone in America’s regional strategy. Unjustified concern was expressed in the latest “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” that went all the way to allege that Cambodia might amend its constitution to cater for foreign military bases.

Cambodia is cautiously mindful of its dark past and it is in the interests of the Kingdom to dispel the paranoia of the US and EU. The question is, how can Cambodia go about it.

Looking in the region, Cambodia can find some clues from countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

Thailand

Neither the US nor the EU has ever demanded the reinstatement of the Thaksin government like they did vis-à-vis the dissolved CNRP.  There is no public condemnation for the repeated election delays.

In contrast, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was welcomed to the White House by President Donald Trump in October 2017 as the Prime minister embarked on what Pongphisoot Busbarat called “shopping diplomacy”. The “shopping list” was aimed to reduce the US trade deficit with Thailand that amounted to $19 billion (2016). It included the lifting of the import ban on American pork and poultry products, the purchase of Boeing aircraft by Thai Airways, the purchase of American coal by Siam Cement Group, the boosting of investment in the US worth $6 billion to create more than 8,000 jobs, the agreement for Thai petroleum company PTT to invest in shale gas factories in Ohio and the $261 million arms purchase.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was also received by British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron in June 2018. In the latter meeting, Thailand’s space agency signed an agreement to buy an observation satellite worth $215 million from French manufacturer AirBus.

In the recent article entitled “ASEAN must make EU a strategic partner”, veteran journalist Kavi Chongkittavorn wrote that “Thailand sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to overcome the stringent criteria outlined by the EU, which would not have been possible without its military rulers’ vigorous use of the much-condemned Section 44.”

One would question what did he imply when referring to “blood, sweat and tears” to secure the EU’s lifting of the yellow card? This may hold the key on how the current Thai government could please Western countries despite being a military junta born from a coup.

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Vietnam

In October 2018, when General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong became the first Vietnamese leader to hold a dual role as central committee general secretary and president, no Western nation raised any alarm or condemnation.

Vietnam is a single-party state by all accounts but it enjoys excellent relations with the US and the EU. This is attributed to two factors; one being that they all share a common geopolitical arch-rival, China; and another one is the usage of Vietnam’s shopping diplomacy.

During the visit of French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to Hanoi in November 2018, France and Vietnam signed two business deals worth over $10 billion. The deals included the purchase by Vietjet Air of 50 AirBus A321 neo planes worth $6.5 billion and CFM Leap engines worth $5.3 billion.

Singapore

The recent Khmer Times opinion by Doung Bosba titled “Is everything about China bad?” has excerpted the Naval Time’s article on the decades-long lease of Singapore port to the US navy for the operation of the Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC) and Navy Region Center Singapore (NRCS) among others.

Good military cooperation and being a strategic ally with the US has helped Singapore to navigate away from any storm of criticism over the nature of its government, which has been dominated by the People’s Action Party since the 1959 general elections.

From the  cases of Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, various options and lessons can be drawn such as cutting trade deficit, detaching from China or making China an enemy, conducting “shopping diplomacy” or leasing facilities to the US military. Whether such options are viable, considering Cambodia’s strategic predicament and its resources, is the question. Even more important, would there be assurances that the US and EU would not antagonize the Cambodian government, should Cambodia choose to please them? Who would guarantee that after pleasing the Western countries, Cambodia would not become the backyard of Thailand and Vietnam both politically and economically?

Without a clear answer to these questions, it is very much likely that Cambodia will continue to navigate in the dark and both the US and EU will continue to antagonize the Cambodian government for their own geo-political interests. Castigating Cambodia for its record on democracy and human rights is just a sideshow. The issue is greater than that if we consider why the US and EU coddle Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore– whose levels of democracy are far from the level demanded from Cambodia.

Soun Nimeth is a Cambodian analyst based in Phnom Penh

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