Cambodia reveals air defense plans near China-funded naval base

Growing military footprint at Ream boosts strategic value for Beijing: experts

The Cambodian government disclosed plans last week to develop an air defense center and expand a radar system at Ream National Park near its naval base in Sihanoukville province.

For several years, the U.S. government has warned that the Ream naval base is secretly being developed to become China’s second overseas military base and first in the Indo-Pacific region. While the new plans may simply indicate Cambodia’s desire to bolster its weak military infrastructure, experts say the developments would also enhance surveillance-gathering capabilities and strengthen Ream’s strategic value for China.

The government’s disclosure revealed that Prime Minister Hun Sen allocated 157 hectares to the Ministry of National Defense on Sept. 15, 2022 to develop an “air defense command and general headquarters.” An additional 30 hectares were granted for a “naval radar system.”

A defense ministry spokesperson said there would be no Chinese funding, support or presence at these facilities.

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