Cambodia and Beijing deny the construction of naval structures for the Chinese fleet

Cambodia and Beijing have denied reports that they are building a secret naval facility for the Chinese fleet, as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed concern and called for transparency.
The Washington Post, citing unnamed Western officials, said a new facility at the Cambodian Ream base – strategically located in the Gulf of Thailand – was built for the “exclusive” use of the Chinese navy.

The base has been a sore spot in U.S.-Cambodia relations for years, with the U.S. long suspecting it will be converted for use by China as it seeks to bolster its international influence with a network of military outposts.

A military office standing on a naval base pier.

The United States has long suspected that the Ream naval base is being converted for use by China as it seeks to bolster its international influence with a network of military outposts. sources: Getty, AFP / Tang Chhin Sothy

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn dismissed the report as “unfounded allegations” in a phone call with Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, according to a statement released late Tuesday from Phnom Penh.

Earlier, a spokesperson said the development of the base “was no secret”.
“Cambodia will not allow the Chinese military to use it exclusively or to develop the site as a military base,” government spokesman Phay Siphan told AFP news agency.

The Cambodian Defense Minister and the Chinese Ambassador will attend an inauguration ceremony on Wednesday for the new facilities in Ream, including a boat repair shop and a pier.

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But Mr. Albanese, to counter the growing Chinese assertiveness in the region, he called the reports “concerning”.
“We encourage Beijing to be transparent about its intentions and to ensure that its activities support regional security and stability,” he told reporters, saying Cambodia had assured Canberra that no foreign military would have exclusive access to the Ream base.
Australia has become increasingly concerned about Beijing’s growing influence in the Pacific region.
A leaked draft of a in April it raised concerns that it would allow Chinese naval deployments to the Pacific island nation, less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia.

Denials from China, Cambodia

Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly insisted that the job is nothing more than modernizing the base with a new boat maintenance facility developed with Chinese help.
“Cambodia does not need the presence of a foreign army on its territory,” he said in a speech last month.

China also denied that the base would be used exclusively by their navy.

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“The transformation of the Ream naval base only serves to strengthen the capabilities of Cambodian naval forces to support maritime territorial sovereignty and crack down on maritime crimes,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing.
He added that Washington’s criticisms were “harmful conjectures to attack and defame” Cambodia.
Concerns about the base date back to 2019, when the American newspaper Wall Street Journal reported a draft secret agreement that allowed Beijing to dock warships there.

Cambodia has since dismantled the facilities at the base which were built in part with American money and hosted US exercises.