Japan's foreign minister seeks free and fair Cambodia polls

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, left, shakes hands with his Cambodia counterpart Prak Sokhonn, right, before a welcome meeting in Peace Palace, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, April 8, 2018. Taro Kono is on his one-day an official visit to Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, left, shakes hands with his Cambodia counterpart Prak Sokhonn, right, before a welcome meeting in Peace Palace, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, April 8, 2018. Kono is on his one-day an official visit to Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, left, exchanges a document with his Cambodia counterpart Prak Sokhonn, front right, as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, second from left, looks on during a signing ceremony in Peace Palace, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, April 8, 2018. Kono is on his one-day an official visit to Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Japan's foreign minister on Sunday urged Cambodia to hold free and fair elections but didn't comment on the Cambodian government's actions against its political opponents during talks with the Southeast Asian nation's long-serving prime minister, Hun Sen.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that Tokyo would help Cambodia with free and fair elections, according to a spokesman for his office, Norio Maruyama, who confirmed that Japan would supply ballot boxes for the July polls.

Right groups and Western nations have expressed concern about the conditions under which the election will be held, with the opposition party dissolved by court order after a complaint by the government, one of its leaders imprisoned and the other in self-imposed exile, and critical media outlets forced to shut down.

A Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman earlier had also said the sensitive questions about the election had not been raised in the talks Kono held with Hun Sen and Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn.

Asked by reporters about Hun Sen's harassment of his opponents, Maruyama said Kono did not comment on Cambodia's internal affairs.

In reply to another question about whether the elections could be described as free and fair, he said: "Everybody can have their own idea about how to be free and fair. Free is free, fair is fair, but we don't want to enter into the philosophy of what is free and what is fair. It will be an endless argument on this. But we are not commenting on that."

Sunday's talks covered the promotion of bilateral ties and how Japan could help Cambodia in the logistics and infrastructure sectors, spokesmen for both countries said.

Kono and Prak Sokhonn signed two agreements for Tokyo to supply loans and grant aid totaling nearly $90 million.

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