China Help Renew Cambodia's Largest Naval Base, Analyst Talks About PLA Warships

China Help Renew Cambodia's Largest Naval Base, Analyst Talks About PLA Warships
China Help Renew Cambodia's Largest Naval Base

International Military - China has reportedly started a project to 'modernize' a naval base in Ream, Cambodia. Chinese and Cambodian officials started the project on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

According to AP News, Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Bahn, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian, and other officials were seen donning white gloves before handing over shovels full of dirt to mark the start of the Ream naval base's 'modernization' project.

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The modernization project will include ship repairs, pier extension, hospital, workshop and a 'reception building'. Tea Bahn told guests, including the US defense attache, not to worry too much about the modernization project. "Please don't worry too much about this Ream base," said Tea Banh, speaking in front of a noticeboard stating that the project was being funded by 'grand assistance from the People's Republic of China'.

"This base is too small and even after being upgraded it cannot become a base that threatens any country," he said. Tea Banh said he invited US and other foreign representatives to the base so they could see for themselves that there was nothing to worry about.

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Nonetheless, Tea Bahn said that once construction is complete, the facility will become a restricted military zone with no access for foreign countries. Following the ceremony, the US Embassy in Phnom Penh reiterated American concerns that "the Chinese military presence in Ream could threaten Cambodia's autonomy and undermine regional security".

"The US and countries in the region have expressed concern about the lack of transparency about the intent, nature and scope of this project and the role the Chinese military plays in its construction and in the use of post-construction facilities," embassy spokeswoman Stephanie Arzate said in an email to The Associated Press.

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According to Tea Banh, the project is expected to take two years to complete. He did not say how much it would cost, but China has given Cambodia hundreds of millions of dollars in grants in recent years for infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, according to the South China Morning Post, analysts say China may be helping to modernize Cambodia's largest naval base, but that doesn't mean warships and PLA troops will be routinely stationed there.

The Ream naval base is not targeted at any third party. China's ambassador, Wang Wentian, said on Wednesday that the project was a symbol of mutual respect between China and Cambodia.

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The upgraded base will help modernize Cambodia's naval capacity and enhance its overall military capability. "Some countries continue to tout and tarnish normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Cambodia," the ambassador said.

"Strongly meddling in Cambodia's internal affairs. China is firmly against it," he continued. Ream is known to face the Gulf of Thailand, adjacent to the South China Sea, where Beijing has aggressively asserted its claim over the entire strategic waterway.

The US has refused to recognize Beijing's claims to the South China Sea and routinely conducts military maneuvers there to reinforce that they are international waters.

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