PHNOM PENH, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Chair of 2012 ASEAN, on Sunday evening left Cambodia for the United States on an official visit to boost bilateral relations and the ASEAN-U.S. ties.
Speaking at the Phnom Penh International Airport before his departure, Hor Namhong said, "The visit will tighten Cambodia-U.S. relations and the ASEAN-U.S. ties."
He is scheduled to meet the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on June 12, according to a press release from Cambodia's Foreign Ministry. He will also have a separate meeting with Senator Jim Webb, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs, and Daniel Russel, Special Assistant to the U.S. President Barack Obama in charge of East Asian Affairs.
Hor Namhong said during the upcoming meeting with Hillary, he will ask the U.S. side to reconsider relieving the debt that Cambodia owed in 1970s.
"In the past, there had been several times of negotiations between Cambodia's finance ministry and the U.S. on settling the debt... During the visit, I will ask the U.S. to continue negotiations to reach a solution that is acceptable to the two sides," he told reporters.
Cambodia owed the United States 162 million U.S. dollars in the Lon Nol regime between 1970 and 1975. Plus interest rate, to date, the debt has amounted to more than 400 million U.S. dollars, according to Cambodia's Foreign Ministry.
Cambodian government considers the debt as "dirty debt" and has urged the United States for years to convert the debt into aid, but Washington has not agreed to it yet.