Cambodia Rejects Suspicions Reversal on US Base Upgrade Signals Plans to Host Chinese Military Assets

Cambodia’s Minister of Defense Tea Banh on Monday dismissed suspicions that his government had reneged on accepting an offer from the U.S. to upgrade buildings at a naval base in Preah Sihanouk province because it plans to host Chinese military assets at the site.

In a letter written to Tea Banh last month, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Joseph Felter said that Cambodia’s National Committee for Maritime Security Tactical Headquarters had requested that Washington refurbish a training facility and boat depot, built by the U.S. in 2017, when he toured the Ream Navy Base in January, according to media reports.

While funds to upgrade the facilities were approved in April, Cambodia’s Defense Ministry informed the Pentagon two months later that they were “no longer necessary,” Felter said, prompting concerns that the ministry might be planning for a Chinese presence at the base in the province, which has seen an influx of Chinese investment in recent years.

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