Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen has publicly endorsed China's position on territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Chinese officials say the disputes cannot be solved through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that the issue should be solved by the countries directly affected by the disputes.
“Ultimately, it is not an issue for ASEAN as a whole. It is a bilateral issue between the concerned countries, which need to talk between themselves," he said.
Chinese officials said China will only negotiate territorial disputes in one-on-one negotiations. The country refuses to work multilaterally to deal with the issues.
The Philippines and Vietnam both want a more regional and multi-lateral way to deal with the problem.
This is the first time Cambodia's leader has openly stated his position on the South China Sea issue. Cambodia has faced criticism for its handling of the matter during a meeting of the ASEAN countries in 2012. Hun Sen said Cambodia should not be the only country criticized for continued problems in the area.
“After Cambodia, Brunei also could not find a solution; Myanmar failed as well. Now I am waiting to see if Malaysia will be able to solve the problem," said Hun Sen.
The regional leaders failed to issue a joint declaration during the 2012 ASEAN meeting. Critics said no agreement was reached because Cambodia protected China's position on the South China Sea issue.
The ASEAN countries include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition to Vietnam and the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also have territorial disputes with China.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Kong Sothanarith reported this story from Phnom Penh. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter edited it.
Words in This Story
endorse – v. to publicly or officially say that you support or approve of (someone or something)
one-on-one – adj. involving two individuals, groups or countries
multilateral – adj. involving more than two groups or countries