On Wednesday, the US imposed an arms embargo and new export restrictions on Cambodia over the Southeast Asian country’s ties with China.
Announcing the restrictions, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the Cambodian government must work to “reduce the influence” of the Chinese military in the country.
The US has been accusing Cambodia of allowing China to build a military facility at its Ream Naval Base. China is building at the port, but Phnom Penh has denied it is a military facility since its constitution does not allow foreign military bases. In November, the US sanctioned Cambodian officials over the construction.
Ultimately, the US opposition to China’s construction at the Cambodian port is about trying to limit Chinese influence in general. But since China is a regional power and a major investor in Cambodia, it’s unlikely that the US pressure will sway Phnom Penh to change its relationship with Beijing. If anything, Washington’s aggressive approach will bring Cambodia and China closer together.
It’s not clear if the arms embargo will have any impact since the US does not supply Cambodia with weapons. But if the US chooses to enforce the embargo on other countries, it could open up Cambodia’s trading partners to US sanctions.