Defence Minister Tea Banh yesterday weighed in on the contentious South China Sea issue, saying it was up to claimants to resolve, following a meeting on military cooperation with his counterpart from Vietnam, which has aggressively disputed China’s actions in the sea.
The meeting was part of a two-day visit by Vietnamese Defence Minister Ngo Xuan Lich, who also met Prime Minister Hun Sen.
China made waves over the South China Sea dispute in April when it released a statementclaiming Cambodia – along with Laos and Brunei – had reached an agreement with Beijing that ASEAN should not be involved in settling the dispute.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan was quick to deny the reported agreement. However, Banh revived the matter yesterday.
“Cambodia has a clear stance; we want to encourage the conflicting parties to sit down and solve the issue among themselves,” he said. “Outsiders should not come in and mess things up.”
Xuan Lich’s visit comes just 12 days after Banh publicly declared the Kingdom’s close relationship with Vietnam an “obstacle” to the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann yesterday refused to be drawn on Banh’s comments.
“This is his own idea, his own consideration. But the army must be neutral,” Sovann said. “I think the CNRP do not consider anyone an enemy. When we’re in power, we’ll develop cooperation through mutual respect.”