Moments in U.S. Diplomatic HistoryAssociation for Diplomatic Studies and Training
It took place in the shadow of the dramatic evacuation from Saigon, which signaled the
Cambodia had received its independence from France in 1953, effectively making King Norodom Sihanouk its ruler. Sihanouk’s Vietnam War policy was to preserve Cambodia’s neutrality and prevent it from being drawn into the war by its neighbors. In 1965, however, he made a deal with China and North Vietnam that allowed the latter to establish permanent bases in eastern Cambodia and the transshipment of military supplies from China. In March 1970, while Sihanouk was out of the country, Prime Minister Lon Nol convened the National Assembly, which voted to depose Sihanouk as head of state and give Nol emergency powers. Prince Sirik Matak (Sihanouk’s cousin) retained his post as Deputy Prime Minister. The newly formed Khmer Republic was immediately recognized by the United States, with Lon Nol as its self-proclaimed President. The capital of Phnom Penh was the last bastion of the Khmer Republic in 1975 and by April of that year, the Khmer Rouge, as the Communist Party of Kampuchea was also known, completely surrounded the city. Phnom Penh was dependent on receiving supplies via air support.