PHNOM PENH, KOMPAS.com — Cambodia and China on Wednesday, June 8, broke ground on a Beijing-funded project to revamp a naval base that the US fears is intended for Chinese military use.
The Washington Post this week cited unnamed Western officials as saying the new facilities at Cambodia’s Ream base -- strategically located on the Gulf of Thailand -- were being built for the "exclusive" use of the Chinese navy.
Both countries deny the allegation, with Phnom Penh saying the base’s development is "not a secret."
Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh and Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian were on hand Wednesday to see work commence on the new facilities including a boat maintenance workshop, two piers, a dry dock, slipway, and sand dredging for bigger ships to dock.
Heavy construction machinery was visible at the site.
“It is not targeted at any third party, and will be conducive to even closer practical cooperation between the two militaries, better fulfillment of international obligations and provision of international public goods,” Wang said.
The project, paid for with a Chinese grant, also includes upgrading and expanding a hospital as well as donations of military equipment and repair of eight Cambodian warships, Tea Banh said.
“There are allegations that the modernized Ream base will be used by the Chinese military exclusively. No, it is not like that at all,” the minister told several hundred people including foreign diplomats at the ceremony.
“Don’t worry too much, the Ream base is very small... It won’t pose a threat to anyone, anywhere.”