In the wake of tensions between China and Japan, Cambodia has retreated from its previous support for Japan’s membership in the UN Security Council, as Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Cambodia would take a wait-and-see approach to Japan’s membership.
Hor Namhong said Cambodia, which has grown closer to China in recent years, would wait to see how other countries respond to Japan’s bid before voicing its position on the issue.
“In the past, Cambodia always expressed our support for Japan, India and Germany to be admitted into the permanent council of the United Nations,” Hor Namhong told reporters at a news conference in Phnom Penh on Monday, after returning from an Asian-African summit in Jakarta.
But, he added: “Right now, we have to wait and see [if] there is a general tendency [before stating] whether or not we support.”
He said while some believe the UN Security Council should be expanded, others preferred the status quo.
Hor Namhong’s statement was seen as tempering earlier support for Japan expressed by National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Prince Ranariddh on Friday said “it is justice for Japan to be admitted into the UN Security Council” because Japan played an important role on the world stage.
While Japan has traditionally been the biggest foreign aid donor to Cambodia, China has become a major player on Cambodia’s business front, with Chinese companies increasingly investing here.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay of the Center for Social Development said Hor Namhong’s ambiguity over Cambodia’s stance on Japan was “political backtracking” in favor of appeasing China.
“The government is seemingly biased toward China in the wake of souring diplomatic tensions between Japan and China,” he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese President Wu Jintao met during the Asian-African summit to iron out tensions but failed to reconcile.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who returned with Hor Namhong from Jakarta on Monday, declined to speak to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport.