Cambodia was the first country from Southeast Asia that registered the support for the Japan-initiated Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy (FOIP). The main reason for such move is that Cambodia perceives Japan as a benign power that sincerely assists Cambodia, from peacekeeping and peacebuilding to national reconstruction and regional integration. Japan has earned political as well as social trust from Cambodia.
Moreover, Cambodia understands that Japan’s FOIP has strong economic component and fundamental principles compatible to those of Asean. Therefore, FOIP will complement to Asean connectivity and regional integration. Japan-Asean partnership and Japan-Mekong cooperation are the key instruments in concretising FOIP.
Any multilateral initiative that has strong economic weight has higher chance of success than an initiative that is designed to realise a geostrategic agenda. Asean in particular is cautious in responding to any initiatives that potentially create a geopolitical divide in the region and hinders Asean-driven mechanisms.
Chheang Vannarith is President of the Asian Vision Institute (AVI).
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