As news reports note, the last time the US Navy entered Cambodian waters was the May 1975 Mayaguez incident, when US forces attempted to rescue the crew of a US merchant ship that had been seized by Khmer Rouge forces.
"US Warship Makes Cambodian Port Visit," by Sopheng Cheang - AP (Sihanoukville, Cambodia), 9 February 2007
SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia - A U.S. navy warship docked at Cambodia's main seaport Friday, the first port call by an American naval vessel to the Southeast Asian nation in more than three decades.
The USS Gary, a guided missile frigate with 200 officers and crew, was greeted by a team of Cambodian naval officers and U.S. Embassy staff at Sihanoukville, 115 miles southwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.
U.S. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said the ship's visit was a sign of the "deepening of the relationship" that "has not always been that good" between the two countries....
Sailors from the USS Gary will spend the weekend taking part in community activities in a village near Sihanoukville, including hosting public health education classes for the villagers, repairing a local clinic and donating toys and clothes to an orphanage, an embassy statement said.
The USS Gary departs Sihanoukville on Tuesday.
"US Ship Makes Historic Return to Cambodia," by Vince Little - Stars & Stripes (Pacific edition), 12 February 2007
The USS Gary arrived in Cambodia on Friday for the first port visit by a Navy ship in more than three decades, the 7th Fleet announced in a news release.
Royal Cambodian sailors stood in formation and many local residents waited on the pier as the Gary — with some 230 sailors — pulled into Sihanoukville harbor....
Crewmembers checked impoverished villagers’ health and painted a clinic in western Cambodia on Saturday, the Associated Press reported, while at a nearby Buddhist pagoda, a team of Navy doctors examined those in a queue of about 200 villagers, some holding their crying babies.
A civil affairs coordinator attached to the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia said the ship’s doctors were set to offer primary health and dental care to about 300 villagers Sunday, according to the wire service report....
The Gary is expected to remain in Cambodia until Tuesday, the Navy announced previously. Sailors are to interact with the local community in activities including sporting events and medical aid. The crew also is scheduled to conduct exchanges with the Royal Cambodian navy.
“We’ve been very pleased so far,” 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Steve Curry said Saturday. “This has been planned for quite some time. It’s just another routine port visit we do to build partnerships and work on relationships with other countries in the Pacific. … The people in Cambodia are very excited to have the Gary there.”
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate is assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 out of Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, part of the 7th Fleet and the Navy’s forward-deployed forces.
“USS Gary’s visit to Cambodia shows not only an expansion, but a deepening of relationship,” U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph A. Mussomeli was quoted in the releaseas stating. “While this is clearly a military ship and has a military purpose … it also has a humanitarian purpose and a diplomatic purpose.”
"First US Ship Visit to Cambodia in 30 Years," by Seth Meixner - AFP (Sihanoukville, Cambodia), 9 Febraury 2007
SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (AFP) - The American navy's USS Gary docked in this Cambodian port, becoming the first US military craft to visit the former communist country in more than 30 years.
The visit, which diplomatic sources say is a first step in expanding military ties with Cambodia, comes amid concerns over China's growing influence in the region.
"Symbolically this is very important," said US Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli, who was aboard as the ship came into port.
"It shows how far Cambodia has come and (that it) is taking its rightful place among our community of nations," he said. "Absolutely this shows an expansion, a deepening of relations -- not just military, but humanitarian and diplomatic."...
Mussomeli downplayed the timing of the vessel's visit, which comes as China is expanding its military as well as increasing aid to Cambodia, including military hardware.
Beijing in 2005 gave Cambodia six patrol boats to bolster its ageing navy.
"We do not see this as a competition," the ambassador said....
Cambodian officials said that the Gary's visit did not signify a change in Washington's policy not to supply Cambodia with military materials.
"No equipment," said Navy General Khun Borin, deputy commander of Cambodia's Ream Naval Base.
"Perhaps the United States can receive our officers" for training, he said.
The Gary, a 4,100-tonne guided missile frigate, will remain in port for four days, during which US personnel will provide medical care at a nearby village, as well as provide toys and clothing to a local orphanage.
US sailors will also compete against their Cambodian counterparts in sporting events.
"We are going to engage not only on the military level, but on the community level," said the Gary's captain, Commander Joe Deleon.
For some background on US-Cambodian diplomatic and military relations -- including their public aspect -- see:
"US Opens New Cambodia Mission," by Guy De Launey (in Phnom Penh) - BBC News, 17 January 2006
The United States is opening its first purpose-built embassy in Cambodia on Tuesday.
The new facility is one of the most prominent buildings in Phnom Penh, with a staff of more than 500.
Recently the US resumed military aid to Cambodia for the first time since the Vietnam war, indicating an increasing involvement in the country.
The new embassy is hard to miss. Its black, white and red marble structures occupy an entire block.
It is next to Wat Phnom, the landmark temple which gave Phnom Penh its name.
And while other major embassies in the city are hidden behind towering walls, the US facility makes do with a set of railings. If the plan was to make an impression, it has succeeded....
Some have speculated that the US is trying to counter the increasing influence of other powers in the region. China is now the biggest investor in Cambodia and also provides extensive military aid.
The US has insisted that is not a major concern. But embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said increased involvement was likely.
"We are ready for expansion and several different agencies have expressed an interest in coming here and opening up offices.
"The bilateral relationship between the US and Cambodia has certainly been growing and deepening and expanding, and so some of these new offices coming in will just be another part of that expansion of the relationship," he said.
My first reaction when I saw that story a year ago was to wonder why on earth we were building such a large embassy in Phnom Penh. I assume the 500-plus staff number includes local employees -- still, I think that's bigger than the US Embassy in Rome was in the mid-80s.