Cambodia, South Korea eye strategic partnership

There is a high likelihood that South Korea will be Cambodia’s third strategic partner, after China and Japan. Chheang Vannarith tells why.

The first state visit of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Cambodia last week marked a new milestone in advancing the bilateral relationship, as evidenced by deep political trust and concrete cooperation. Both countries are working towards a more comprehensive cooperation.

It was rare, or perhaps it was the first time, that Prime Minister Hun Sen hosted private dinner for Mr Moon and his spouse on the first day of the state visit. Normally, the King hosts welcome dinner for foreign leaders on an official visit. It was a special diplomatic gesture by the Cambodian host indeed.

No one really knew what the two leaders discussed at the dinner table with a family-type atmosphere. Some have guessed that the two leaders were talking about exploring the opportunities to upgrade their bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, similar to the one that Cambodia currently has with China and Japan.

Moreover, the body language between the two leaders was very positive, reflecting sincerity and friendship between the two leaders. While formality matters in diplomatic protocol, informality counts more in terms of trust building and friendship cultivation. It seems that Mr Hun Sen did win the heart of Mr Moon.

Mr Hun Sen wrote on his social media page that, “the state visit of Mr Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea, to Cambodia this time has contributed to the advancement of friendship and comprehensive and broad cooperation between the two countries”.

Before leaving Cambodia, Mr Moon wrote on his social media page that, “standing before Angkor Wat, my respect for the Cambodian people has deepened further still. Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s past and, at the same time, its future. I am convinced that the Miracle of the Mekong River will certainly come true”.

“I am profoundly grateful to King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen for extending heartfelt hospitality and allowing to witness Khmer civilization,” he added.

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