John Kerry Begins Daylong Diplomatic Visit to Cambodia

Arriving in Cambodia on Monday evening, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry kicked off a 24-hour visit to the country, during which he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen, deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha and civil society leaders.

Flying in from Laos after visiting government leaders there, Mr. Kerry is due to speak with Mr. Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong about strengthening bilateral relations and the upcoming U.S.-Asean summit to be held in Sunnylands, California, next month.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt pose for a photograph with a passer-by on the riverside in Phnom Penh on Monday evening. (Reuters)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt pose for a photograph with a passer-by on the riverside in Phnom Penh on Monday evening. (Reuters)

Upon landing at Phnom Penh International Airport at 7 p.m., Mr. Kerry tweeted that he had “Many important regional security & economic issues to discuss” with the government leaders.

After his arrival, Mr. Kerry was taken straight to the Foreign Correspondents Club on the riverside, where a fleet of black SUVs with U.S. Embassy number plates and rented minibuses filled the closed-off road. Members of the prime minister’s bodyguard unit and besuited U.S. security personnel guarded the entrance.

Before entering the restaurant, however, Mr. Kerry paused to take photographs with tourists and locals walking along the riverfront.

While the U.S. Embassy has been tight-lipped on what Mr. Kerry will discuss while he is here, the U.S. State Department on Monday released the transcript of a Sunday meeting between an unnamed “senior State Department official” and journalists regarding Mr. Kerry’s trip to Laos, Cambodia and China.

The official equated Chinese influence in Cambodia and Laos, describing China as “the dominant player both in economic terms and in political terms.”

The official also cited “concerns” about the political situation in Cambodia.

“The relationship between the ruling party and the opposition party is fraught right now,” the official noted, adding that Mr. Kerry would meet with opposition officials as well as civil society groups “to underscore both U.S. support for democracy in Cambodia but also, importantly, U.S. support for human rights, for civil rights, and for political space.”

In November 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a visit to Cambodia during which she also met with Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Namhong, in addition to holding a question-and-answer session with about 600 students.

Mr. Kerry is expected to make a public statement to the press today, but his meetings will be held behind closed doors.

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