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Asean Affairs 19 October 2011
Cambodia getting attention
By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs 19 October 2011
The chairmanship of Asean belongs to Cambodia in 2012 and preceding the chairmanship, both the United States and China are shining the spotlight on the Kingdom.
Newly appointed US Ambassador to Asean, David Carden, formerly a New York attorney and a prominent Obama fundraise, said that the US president would be visiting Cambodia in November 2012 following the US elections earlier that month.
Whether he is re-elected or not, the president will make the trip according to Ambassador Carden. The trip continues the Asean diplomatic offensive initiated by the US to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the region.
Speaking of China, that country has continued its economic offensive with Cambodia by donating 17 security scanners worth about US$12.5 million to Cambodia prior to Cambodia’s Asean chairmanship.
Since 1992, China has provided US$2.09 billion in grants and loans to Cambodia, Keat Chhon, the Cambodian deputy prime minister said. That figure includes $125 million in grants and $152 million in non-interest loans.
These developments not only underline the continued importance of Asean in the diplomatic strategies of China and the United States but also the different approaches the two powers employ.
China’s approach to Asean has been more economic than that of the US. This includes the Asean-China free trade agreement as well as specific economic developments with each individual country.
Given the poverty in the region, this is probably “smart politics” but this sometimes backfires. The most recent backfire is the recent suspension of the Myitsone dam project by Myanmar President Thein Sein.
However, the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) said on October 14 that there was no evidence “on the ground that the [Myitsone] dam project has indeed been suspended.”
However, being a regional neighbor to the continental Asean countries provides China with great leverage and a presence that the US will have a difficult time counteracting unless th many domestic issues that China faces force it to turn inward..