Sokhonn: Aukus should not fuel rivalries, escalate tension

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn (right) and Australian counterpart Marise Payne (left). MARISE PAYNE VIA FACEBOOK

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn expects that the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the US and UK, known as Aukus, will "not fuel unhealthy rivalries and further escalate tension".

Sokhonn expressed the optimism during a telephone conversation with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne on October 8 to discuss bilateral relations and international issues of common concern, including the recently established Aukus, according to the Cambodian foreign ministry's press statement on October 8.

Payne, who also serves as Minister for Women, briefed Sokhonn on the background of the Aukus partnership, saying it has been built for the common interest of a peaceful, prosperous and secured Indo-Pacific region, and with no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons or even civil nuclear capability.

Aukus, she said, will not fuel an arm race in the region. As part of the security partnership, she elaborated, Australia will be able to acquire nuclear-powered submarines to upgrade the capabilities of its navy.

“She [Payne] reiterated that Australia is committed to the nuclear non-proliferation obligations and to working closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA],” said the statement.

Payne also stressed that Australia is committed to upholding its obligations under the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), and the South Pacific Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SPNWFZ) and Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) treaties, it said.

Sokhonn encouraged Australia to have constructive engagement with ASEAN through all ASEAN-led mechanisms in building mutual trust and confidence in order to secure an open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture.

“He [Sokhonn] highlighted that Cambodia, as a country which had experienced war, destruction and suffering for many decades, wishes to see the whole region remaining peaceful, stable and prosperous, and expected that Aukus will not fuel unhealthy rivalries and further escalate tension,” it said.

The ministry said the two foreign ministers noted with satisfaction the progress of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, including within the Mekong-Australia Partnership (MAP) framework.

Sokhonn and Payne reaffirmed the two nations’ commitment to working more closely to further strengthen the relations in both bilateral and multilateral frameworks for mutual benefits.

They also expressed commitment to strengthening peace, stability and prosperity in the region, particularly when Cambodia assumes ASEAN chairmanship next year.

In her Facebook post on October 9, Payne said Cambodia is an important regional partner and Australia has a longstanding interest in the Kingdom’s development, noting that the two countries will celebrate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations next year.

She said the talk with Sokhonn also touched on development cooperation and commitment to supporting Cambodia’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, including through the MAP framework.

“Australia looks forward to supporting Cambodia as it takes on the position of ASEAN chair in 2022. ASEAN is central to our vision for a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region with ASEAN at its centre,” she said.