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Interview: U.S., Chinese leaders attendance reflects ASEAN’s significance: Cambodia official

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) — The participation of the newly re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in the forthcoming 21st ASEAN Summit and related Summits will mirror the bloc’s important role on international arena, Cambodian government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said.

Obama will make a 3 Asian nation tour, which will bring him to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia from Nov. 17-20, the White House announced last Thursday. In Cambodia, he will attend the 7th East Asia Summit and meet with the ASEAN leaders.

“It will be the first time that the incumbent U.S. president visits Cambodia. More importantly, it will be the first Obama’s visit overseas after he was re-elected as the U.S. president in the 2nd term,” Kanharith told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

“The presence of Obama in the forthcoming ASEAN Summits will bring closer ties between all countries in the region and the United States, and each side can learn from each other,” he said.

However, some analysts said that U.S. active involvement with the ASEAN will be a future chance for the country to intervene into ASEAN internal affairs.

Kanharith said, “It is up to ASEAN. If ASEAN holds a firm stance, other countries will be unable to intervene into ASEAN’s internal affairs.”

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will start his official visit to Cambodia from Nov. 18, according to a press statement from Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.

Commenting on Wen’s upcoming visit, Kanharith said that the visit will reflect the progress of the friendship relations and cooperation between China and ASEAN in general and between China and Cambodia in particular.

“China has showed its maturity of politics and has been increasing its friendship relations and cooperation with ASEAN,” he said, adding, “Step by step, the ASEAN-China ties will be better in the future.”

He also suggested that in order to boost further cooperation between China and ASEAN, both sides should exchange visits more often, organize joint events to promote culture, and accelerate economic ties for mutual interests.

The spokesman said that as the chair of ASEAN, Cambodia has been playing an important role to secure that the Southeast Asia region is a region of peace, friendship and cooperation.

“We hope that joint cooperation and formations of diplomatic mechanism, economic ties and cultural relations between China and the U.S., and China, ASEAN and the U.S. will motivate all countries to solve all issues in the region peacefully,” he said.

Cambodia sets to host the 21st ASEAN Summit and related Summits from Nov. 18-20 at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

The Summits will bring together all ASEAN leaders and ASEAN’s dialogue country leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be unable to attend the forthcoming Summits because he has the most important obligations to do in his country, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said on Thursday.

Founded in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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