President Joe Biden’s trip to Southeast Asia got off to a bad start when he mistakenly thanked the “Prime Minister of Colombia”, rather than Cambodia, for chairing a major summit.
The president is currently in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, ahead of a visit to Bali, Indonesia for a G20 meeting next week.
Speaking at a meeting in Phnom Penh, Biden said: “Now that we are back together in Cambodia, I look forward to making even greater progress than we have already made. And I want to thank the Prime Minister for leading Columbia as ASEAN Chair.”
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is effectively the chairman of ASEAN, while Columbia is not a member of the group and is led by a chairman.
The clip was shared by the official Republican National Committee (RNC) research Twitter account, receiving over 380 retweets.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s gaffe is the second time Biden has appeared to confuse Cambodia with Colombia.
Speaking to reporters as he left the White House on Thursday, the president said: “Anyway guys, I’m heading to Cairo first for the environmental effort [COP27]then on to Colombia and then – I mean, Cambodia.”
After arriving in Cambodia, Biden was photographed with Hun Sen, who has led the country since 1998, outside the Sokha Hotel.
According to a White House reading, Biden raised concerns about the Chinese military’s presence at Cambodia’s Ream naval base, as well as human rights in the country.
“The President expressed his concerns regarding the situation at Naval Base Ream and stressed the importance of full transparency on the activities of the PRC military at Naval Base Ream,” the statement read. . “President Biden also urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to reopen civic and political space ahead of the 2023 elections. He also called for the release of activists detained on political grounds, including Seng Theary, who has dual nationality. American-Cambodian.”
He continued, “President Biden reiterated the United States’ commitment to the people of Cambodia and their aspirations for a more prosperous, democratic, and independent country.”
On Thursday, ASEAN, which has 10 member states, signed a cooperation agreement with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Phnom Penh. Ukraine is expected to be at the center of the upcoming G20 meeting, which Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend in person, according to the Indonesian Embassy to Russia.
Earlier this month, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko called for Russia’s expulsion from the G20 in response to “missile fire at Ukrainian civilians and energy infrastructure”. However, there have been repeated calls to expel Moscow from the G20 since the start of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the summit, where he is due to meet Biden.
Relations between Washington and Beijing have deteriorated in recent months, with ongoing disputes over Taiwan, human rights and the Biden administration’s ban on selling advanced computer chip manufacturing equipment to China. .
Biden was bolstered by stronger-than-expected midterm election results as the widely anticipated Republican “red wave” failed to materialize.
Newsweek contacted the White House for comment.