Kyodo News International
December 3, 2013

Cambodia’s Hun Sen appeals to Japan, China to show restraint

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen voiced concern Tuesday over heightened tensions between Japan and China, appealing to both countries to exercise self-restraint and warning of “serious and unpredictable consequences” for the region if they act otherwise.

“Cambodia is a good friend of both Japan and China. Both Japan and China are very important for Cambodia and have contributed to the promotion of peace and development here,” Hun Sen told Kyodo News in an interview.

“I wish to see the two countries exercise utmost restraint and to avoid any (provocative) actions and incendiary words,” he said.

If Tokyo and Beijing engage in risky undertakings, he warned, it “will lead to serious and unpredictable consequences.”

Hun Sen urged Japan and China, which are embroiled in a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, to peacefully settle their differences through negotiations, either through a bilateral mechanism or a regional one.

He suggested that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Cambodia is a member, could play a role in facilitating, or at least encouraging, dialogue between the two powers for the sake of peace and stability in the region.

“If China and Japan need ASEAN or any other mediator — we are happy to do it…But they are superpowers, and even though they are having problems, they still need each other and complement each other. ASEAN is really worried, because ASEAN Plus Three has been the most important mechanism for ASEAN,” he said, referring to the forum that functions as a coordinator of cooperation between ASEAN and China, Japan and South Korea.

Hun Sen also voiced concern over the impact of a Sino-Japanese confrontation on the 10-member ASEAN, saying its less-developed members such as Cambodia would be “the most critically affected because of the loss in development assistance” as well as trade and investment.

In the context of ASEAN, he said, it “would pollute the political environment and it might interrupt ongoing cooperation and the path forward.”

“ASEAN, Japan and China would all lose a great deal,” he added.

Hun Sen said ASEAN should appeal to Tokyo and Beijing to act responsibly by factoring into their decision-making the interests of East Asia and recognizing their key role in spearheading the region’s economic growth and in tackling problems of global scale such as poverty, climate change and natural disasters.

Besides Cambodia, ASEAN includes Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam./.