Before 1950, citizens of the United States had very limited interaction with residents of what is today the nation of Cambodia. Relations became more regular only after Cambodia gained its independence from the French Empire following World War II.
Modern Flag of Cambodia
The United States recognized the Kingdom of Cambodia on February 7, 1950, when the Department of State made an announcement to that effect. Cambodia previously had been part of Indochina as a Protectorate of France and had become an independent state as part of the French Union in 1949.
Diplomatic relations were established on July 11, 1950, when American Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Donald R. Heath presented his credentials to the government of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Heath was resident at Saigon.
The American Legation in Phnom Penh opened on November 14, 1950, under Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Don V. Catlett.
Following a joint announcement by the United States and Cambodia on June 6, 1952, the United States Legation in Phnom Penh was raised to Embassy status on June 24, 1952, when Ambassador Donald R. Heath received confirmation of his appointment from the United States Senate. Ambassador Heath remained resident at Saigon. The first Ambassador resident at Phnom Penh was Robert M. McClintock, who presented his credentials on October 2, 1954.
Cambodia severed diplomatic relations with the United States on May 3, 1965. The Government of Cambodia stated that it held the United States responsible for recent cross-border air attacks by South Vietnam that had killed Cambodian citizens.
The United States and Cambodia reestablished diplomatic relations on July 2, 1969, according to a Department of State Press Release of that date.
The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh was reopened on August 16, 1969, under Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Lloyd M. Rives.
The United States closed its Embassy in Phnom Penh on April 12, 1975, following the evacuation of all U.S. personnel due to the deteriorating military situation in fighting between government forces and communist insurgents. President Gerald Ford on April 17, 1975, acknowledged the fall of the Government of the Khmer Republic (Cambodia) and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger subsequently explained in a press conference that the new government had refused to establish diplomatic relations with any country.
The United States established a U.S. mission to the Kingdom of Cambodia on November 11, 1991, with Charles H. Twining as its Representative.
The U.S. Embassy in Cambodia was reopened and normal relations were resumed on May 17, 1994, when Ambassador Charles H. Twining presented his credentials in Phnom Pehn.