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China Upgrades Ream Naval Base in Cambodia to Expand Its Influence

On June 8 in Cambodia, a ceremony marked the start of the new China-funded construction at Ream Naval Base. The senior Cambodian military and defense officials as well as China’s ambassador to Cambodia attended the ceremony.

According to Gen. Chau Phirun, director-general of the Cambodian Defense Ministry’s material and technical-services department, over the next two years, Chinese firms and technical experts from China’s military will build or renovate a number of structures including a maintenance workshop, a slipway and dry dock for repairing vessels, a warehouse, two new piers, and electrical, water and sewage infrastructures,

Cambodian Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh said in a speech that the funding for the upgrades will be  from a Chinese grant. He denied that the Chinese forces will use the facility as a naval base.

The Wall Street Journal revealed in 2019 that Beijing had signed a clandestine agreement allowing its armed forces to have exclusive use of a part of Ream Naval Base, which is located on Cambodia’s southern coast facing the Gulf of Thailand.

China is helping Cambodia expand and upgrade Ream naval base in the Southeast Asian country, heightening concerns U.S. officials have expressed for years that Beijing plans to establish a naval outpost there. Experts say Chinese forces would be able to use the Cambodian facility to further assert Beijing’s expansive territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.

China’s ambassador to Cambodia, Wang Wentian, said at the ceremony, “The Chinese military shall, as always and within its means, provide assistance to the Cambodian military.” Anyone who claims that China is using the facility to expand its influence is “using the yardsticks of knaves to judge a gentleman’s intentions.”

1. WSJ, June 8, 2022.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

2. Epoch times, June9, 2022.