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China Says Pol Pot’s Removal Is Conducive To Unity

September 5, 1985

PEKING (AP) _ China said Wednesday that the retirement of Communist Khmer Rouge military leader Pol Pot is conducive to unity among the Cambodian people.

In its first official reaction to Monday’s Khmer Rouge radio announcement that Pol Pot was retiring for reasons of age, Foreign Ministry Information Director Ma Yuzhen termed it a Khmer Rouge ″personnel change.″

″It appears such a change will be conducive to unity among the Kampuchean people and enhance their struggle to resist Vietnamese aggression and save the country,″ Ma told a news briefing. Cambodia is also known as Kampuchea.

China backed the Pol Pot regime of 1975-78 and is the major supplier of arms to 50,000 Khmer Rouge guerrillas fighting Vietnamese occupation forces in Cambodia.

The Khmer Rouge is one of three resistance groups in the U.N.-recognized ″coalition government of democratic Kampuchea,″ led by former Cambodian monarch Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

Both the non-Communist partners, including Sihanouk’s followers and nationalists under coalition Prime Minister Son Sann, have condemned Khmer Rouge atrocities but formed the coalition as the only means of fighting the Vietnamese.

Vietnam has said it will not negotiate a settlement of the six-year conflict unless the ″Pol Pot clique″ is eliminated.

Ma noted the coalition’s acceptance of a plan put forward by the six-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, calling for ″proximity″ talks in which intermediaries would relay messages between the coalition and the Vietnamese-Phnom Penh side.

This shows that the coalition is sincere in seeking a political settlement, Ma said.

″The question now is that Vietnam is still clinging to its position of aggression against Kampuchea and has made no positive response to the ASEAN proposal,″ Ma said.

The retirement of Pol Pot, said to be 63 or 64, has been welcomed by the U.S. State Department, Malaysia and Sihanouk, who lost five children and 14 grandchildren during Khmer Rouge rule.

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