ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon Twitter
International relations

Cambodia's Hun Sen avoids condemning Russia during Kishida visit

Japanese PM says he will brief G-7 on response from ASEAN chair and India's Modi

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, meets with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh on March 20. (Pool/Kyodo)

PHNOM PENH -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with Cambodian leader Hun Sen on a visit to the Southeast Asian nation Sunday, part of an overseas tour that included a push to plug holes in international efforts to isolate Russia.

Though Kishida and Hun Sen agreed that Russia's invasion of Ukraine violates the United Nations Charter, the joint statement issued after their talks neither mentioned Russia by name nor condemned its assault.

The two leaders called for an immediate end to hostilities and a withdrawal of armed forces from Ukrainian territory.

Kishida told reporters he would brief fellow Group of Seven leaders this week on his meeting with Hun Sen and his earlier summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"It is important for the G-7 to have a report from Japan, its only Asian member," Kishida said, adding that he would attend Thursday's summit in Brussels if possible. 

Sunday's summit outcome underscored how the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, chaired by Cambodia this year, is treading carefully in its reaction to Russia's war against Ukraine.

In a February statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said they were "deeply concerned over the evolving situation and armed hostilities in Ukraine," but stopped short of condemning Russia's actions. Vietnam and Laos abstained in a U.N. General Assembly vote this month on a resolution urging Moscow to end the invasion.

Singapore has gone as far as imposing economic sanctions on Russia. But that makes it an outlier in ASEAN, many of whose members have economic ties and arms supply deals with Russia.

Thailand and Indonesia have other reasons for trying to maintain a neutral stance. This year, Thailand will chair the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meetings, while Indonesia will host leaders of the Group of 20. Russia belongs to both groups.

Some ASEAN members have strong ties with China, and this influence also can be seen. On Friday, the same day U.S. President Joe Biden urged Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping not to support Russia's invasion, Xi held a telephone call with Hun Sen.

Xi and the Cambodian prime minister agreed to "hold a balanced and fair position on the Ukraine situation" and work toward a peaceful resolution, China's Foreign Ministry said.

Xi has elevated China's relationship with Russia. His call to Hun Sen shortly before Kishida's arrival seemingly serves as a reminder for Cambodia not to stray too close to Japan and the West.

Kishida also visited India on his Asian tour. As the U.S.-led effort to isolate Russia continues, Japan has tried to rally support where it can. Both India and ASEAN have close ties with Japan.

The U.S. and EU members like Germany have sought deeper cooperation with ASEAN as a bulwark against China. But ASEAN's consensus-based decision-making and members' differing relations with Beijing -- some have open territorial disputes -- make it difficult for the bloc to forge a unified diplomatic policy.

Tokyo has sought to warn Asian partners that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is not just a threat to Europe. Similar unilateral moves to change the status quo by force would have a far greater spillover on ASEAN if attempted closer to home.

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

Nikkei Asian Review, now known as Nikkei Asia, will be the voice of the Asian Century.

Celebrate our next chapter
Free access for everyone - Sep. 30

Find out more