Australian FM meets with Cambodia's leader, in 4-nation tour

·2-min read

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Australia's top diplomat met Monday with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on issues including the coronavirus pandemic during the second stop of her four-nation Southeast Asian tour.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne exchanged views with her host on trade and Australia’s provision of assistance to Cambodia in the education, health, agriculture and defense sectors, said Eang Sophalleth, a spokesman for the Cambodian premier.

Payne mentioned during talks that Australia will provide 3.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Cambodia, with 1.5 million doses set to arrive by the end of this year, the spokesman added. Australia in February announced a separate grant of $28 million for Cambodia to purchase 3 million doses.

Payne, who also serves as Minister for Women, paid a visit to a shelter for women survivors of violence in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh that receives support from the Australian government.

Ahead of Payne’s trip to Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced last week that one of its goals was “to strengthen our shared work to promote the region’s economic and health recovery from COVID-19.”

It also said her trip was a follow-up to an agreement last month to establish a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between ASEAN — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — and Australia.

Cambodia last month assumed the ASEAN chair, which rotates annually among the regional bloc's 10 members.

Several ASEAN members, including Malaysia and Indonesia, have expressed concern about Australia’s plan to build nuclear-powered submarines under its recently announced AUKUS defense technology pact with Britain and the United States.

Hun Sen’s spokesman said Payne briefed the prime minister on the agreement, and he thanked her for the explanation. Cambodia is a close ally of China, which has criticized the pact.

Payne, who arrived from Malaysia, next visits Vietnam and then concludes her tour in Indonesia, the region’s biggest country.

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