US cancels Asean leaders summit

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Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed of the cancellation over Covid-19 fears on Saturday. fresh news

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the Cambodian embassy in Washington has informed it that the US may cancel the Asean-US summit due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told The Post yesterday that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed of the cancellation on Saturday, but had not yet heard anything officially from the US.

“For Cambodia, I think the delay or postponement of the summit should solely be the right of the host country to not affect relations between Asean and the US or Asean member countries with the US,” he said.

NBC News on Friday said President Donald Trump’s administration has decided to cancel the opening of a special summit with Asean leaders on March 14 in Las Vegas due to Covid-19 concerns.

“As the international community works together to defeat the novel coronavirus, the US, in consultation with Asean partners, has made the difficult decision to postpone the Asean leaders meeting previously scheduled for mid-March.

“The US values our relationships with the nations of this critical region, and looks forward to future meetings,” an administration official said.

However, the White House has not announced whether US President Donald Trump was scheduled to attend the Asean-US summit in Las Vegas.

The US government on Saturday announced the first death from the coronavirus in its territory.

As of Saturday, the US had recorded 22 cases of Covid-19 infection, which does not include US citizens evacuated from Wuhan, China, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

US Vice-President Mike Pence confirmed that the US would extend travel restrictions to Iran. Also, the US will increase travel advisories for specific regions of Italy and South Korea.

Kin Phea, the director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the cancellation of the summit with Asean leaders due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus was justified. He said the epidemic was a shared, global issue and he advised on the side of caution.

However, he said that although the Asean-US summit should be postponed, he noted that some Asean leaders may not have attended anyway – including the leaders of the Philippines, Myanmar and Malaysia.

“What could be the reason behind it [the US cancellation] is the president of the Philippines said he would not attend, Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma [Myanmar] is also unlikely to attend.

“Political uncertainty in Malaysia means there could be no leader or a leader that doesn’t attend.

“So, if these Asean leaders are not present, there is not a strong showing for the summit. The US is a superpower, if the smaller nations boycott it, the US cannot attend or it would be humiliating for them,” he said.

He said the Asean-US Summit being on US soil was just to compensate for Trump’s absence from the Asean-US Summit held in October last year in Thailand.

As of press time on Sunday, the US Embassy in Cambodia had not responded to emails from The Post for further information.