A U.S. naval fleet docked in Sihanoukville on Monday for the sixth annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) exercises with the Royal Cambodian Navy.
The five-day exercises will include on- and offshore training, as well as discussions about military law and medicine, according to a statement released by the U.S. fleet, known as Task Force 73.
“CARAT enables us to develop strong relationships with our Cambodian Navy partners,” Task Force 73 commander Rear Admiral Charlie Williams said in the statement. “[W]e continue to make steady progress in increasing the complexity of our training and enhancing cooperation between our navies.”
The exercises began just three days after the U.S. State Department expressed its concern about the “deteriorating political climate in Cambodia,” citing an arrest warrant issued for opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
However, Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra, said it was unlikely the U.S. would consider canceling the exercises unless the Cambodian government acted in a more egregious way.
“Those contacts with the military are one of the few conduits [the U.S. government] would use to influence the Hun Sen government,” Mr. Thayer said. “These exercises are part of a specific command to woo over and get Cambodia to be more cooperative with U.S. military.”
Asked whether recent events might affect U.S. military cooperation with Cambodia, U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman declined to comment.