Phnom Penh, Cambodia
By the end of 1988, Prince Norodom Sihanouk plans to resume talks on resolving the stalemate on the occupation of Cambodia with the nation's prime minister, Hun Sen. ``Unofficial information'' indicates Prince Sihanouk will return to the negotiating table after a trip to New York in a few months, said Prime Minister Hun Sen in a Monitor interview.
After two rounds of talks between Sihanouk and Hun Sen in December and January, Sihanouk on Feb. 3 canceled the third round of talks planned for April. Last month he hinted that another round might be possible in 1989 or 1990 depending on how much Hun Sen appears to be ``independent' of Vietnam, whose troops remain in Cambodia nine years after ousting the Khmer Rouge and helping to install the pro-Hanoi government now under Hun Sen.
Sihanouk has been the leader of a tripartite Khmer coalition opposing the Soviet-backed Vietnamese presence in Cambodia. Last year he took a leave of absence from the coalition to allow him flexibility in talks with Hun Sen, leader of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).
Relatives of Sihanouk such as cousin Poeu Lida, who side with the PRK, are reportedly trying to help restart the talks, say officials in Phnom Penh.
One high-level PRK leader said China had sent signals to Phnom Penh in recent weeks that it is ready to seek a settlement. The offer, according to this official, was rejected because China refused to end its support for the Khmer Rouge, the strongest military faction in the anti-Hanoi coalition.
Hun Sen denied that the Chinese have sent out feelers, but he commented on China's intentions in its military takeover in March of six ocean reefs claimed by Vietnam in the South China Sea. ``While China sees the Kampuchea issue as a light at the end of the tunnel, then they will try to bleed Vietnam by direct confrontation.''
Hun Sen said that Vietnam will definitely withdraw its troops by 1990 with no conditions, although Sihanouk claims that Hun Sen set one condition during their talks: that China dismantle the Khmer Rouge.
``After the withdrawal, the only problem will be the continuous support of the Khmer Rouge by China,'' Hun Sen said. ``We will wait and see the behavior of other countries to the situation. After the Vietnamese have gone, whether these countries are going to condemn the Chinese for providing assistance to Pol Pot [leader of the Khmer Rouge], this is the crux of the question.''
Unlike his Soviet allies, Hun Sen believes the Afghan settlement on a troop withdrawal offers no model for Cambodia. He also said that talks between the Soviet Union and China, if they ever take place, could not lead to a Cambodian settlement.
``Both the Afghan and Kampuchea conflicts are similar in that they need a political solution. And it is similar that more troops need to be withdrawn. Another similarity is the need to end foreign intervention when the ... troops have withdrawn.
``The difference is that the question in Kampuchea is connected to the genocidal Pol Pot. There are similarities and also points of divergence, therefore we cannot use the Afghan settlement as a model here.''
Hun Sen said that any agreement between Moscow and Peking regarding Cambodia can lead to ``no solution.''
``The domestic question of Kampuchea cannot be solved by outside countries. ... If all the Kampuchean factions cannot come to an agreement themselves, nothing can be solved. The question of Kampuchea is not dependent on the relationship between China and the Soviet Union.''