Cambodia’s ambassador to the Philippines has been recalled, Manila’s foreign minister said Friday, after the envoy accused his host country of playing “dirty politics” in its maritime row with China.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters that Cambodian ambassador Hos Sereythonh had been recalled, although he did not give reasons.
The recall came after del Rosario summoned the ambassador last month to explain comments he made in a letter to a Manila newspaper blaming the Philippines and Vietnam for a rift at a regional conference in Cambodia.
The ambassador failed to appear, pleading illness.
Philippine foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez said that it was Cambodia’s prerogative to recall its envoy. He did not elaborate.
“We hope the Cambodian ambassador will help reinforce the friendship that exists between our two countries,” Hernandez said in a statement.
The ambassador’s comments had further deepened divisions within the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after a ministerial meeting hosted by Cambodia ended in disarray over the sea dispute.
The Philippines had charged that during the meeting Cambodia, a close ally of China, rejected at least five drafts of a joint statement that would have addressed the maritime row with Beijing over the South China Sea.
Two weeks later, in a letter to the Philippine Star, a popular daily, Hos Sereythonh accused the Philippines and Vietnam of working to “sabotage and hijack the joint communique” during the ASEAN meeting.
China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the sea, which is believed to sit atop vast natural resources.
But ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan, have overlapping claims in the area.
Tensions have escalated this year, with Beijing becoming embroiled in diplomatic rows with Manila and Hanoi.
Diplomats had said the Philippines called on its fellow ASEAN members at the Cambodia meeting to support it against China.