Phnom Penh (FN), July 27 – Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chum Sounry, rejected all accusations that Cambodia had obstructed the inclusion of a clause on the verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in the joint statement of the 49th ASEAN meeting in Vientiane, Laos.
It is the Philippines that acknowledged during the meeting that the South China Sea dispute is between China and the Philippines and not between ASEAN and China, and hence, proposed to take out the reference to the international court ruling on the issue from the ASEAN joint statement, Sounry said.
In a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport, accompanying Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn on his return to Cambodia on July 27, 2016, from Laos where the ASEAN meeting took place, Chum Sounry said in both the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and the expanded ASEAN meetings, the issue of South China Sea disputes and ASEAN member issues were discussed and that all ASEAN members were invited to talk about the South China Sea issues.
The fact that a reference to the arbitration court ruling on South China Sea dispute was not included in the ASEAN joint statement was the result of a request by the Philippines and not because of an obstruction by Cambodia, Sounry said.
“I would like to clarify that the Philippines’ Foreign Minister himself who had acknowledged that the dispute was between the Philippines and China and not between ASEAN and China. Hence it is the Foreign Minister of the Philippines himself who proposed to take out the reference to the Arbitration Court ruling from the joint statement of 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting. So, it was not because of a veto or an objection by Cambodia” said Sounry.
Sounry also denied reports that Cambodia attempted to prevent the issue of South China Sea from being raised at the summit meeting as well as other relevant meeting. Sounry said that actually at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and other relevant meetings, Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn always brought up the South China Sea issue and called on parties involved to try to cool down rather than heating up the issue.