China Building Secret Base in Cambodia, Officials Say

Both countries have denied the project, though groundbreaking is this week
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2022 4:24 PM CDT
Cambodia Base May Be Next Step in China's Plan
Cambodian navy troop members walk at Ream Naval Base in Sihanoukville, southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2019.   (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

China is establishing a naval base in Cambodia as part of its plan to have military sites for its use around the world, Western officials say. The two nations have shrouded the project in secrecy and denials, though they plan a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday that Chinese officials will attend, the Washington Post reports. The installation is being built at Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand and will be China's second overseas military site; the other is in East Africa. The Cambodian Embassy in Washington said that the site is merely being renovated and that the government follows the nation's constitution, which prohibits hosting foreign bases.

A Western official said Chinese leaders consider the strategically important Indo-Pacific to be part of China's sphere of influence. "They view China's rise there as part of a global trend toward a multipolar world, where major powers more forcefully assert their interests in their perceived sphere of influence," the official said, adding that China wants to increase its presence and clout until the region is "unwilling or unable to challenge China's core interests." Other nations could experience that clout through coercion, inducements, punishment, and other means.

A Chinese official told the Post that only part of the base will be used by China's military, saying scientists will use it, as well. Construction on a Chinese military installation in the United Arab Emirates was stopped last year, per the Wall Street Journal, after US officials found out about the project. The armies of China and Cambodia signed a memo of understanding in March, per Bloomberg, without releasing its contents. "China and Cambodia are close neighbors and iron-clad friends," a Chinese military spokesman said, adding that the cooperation between the nations has expanded and involves "strategic communication, joint exercises and training, exchanges, and personnel training." (Read more Chinese military stories.)

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