Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen defended the country’s right to expand a naval base in his first public comments following criticism from Washington over the demolition of U.S.-funded buildings at the facility and amid reports that the development is being funded by China.
Ream Naval Base in the southwestern coastal city of Sihanoukville has been a point of friction between Phnom Penh and Washington since a report in The Wall Street Journal last year cited U.S. and allied officials as confirming a secret deal to allow the Chinese to use part of the base for 30 years.
Hun Sen vehemently denied the deal at the time. A naval base at Ream on the Gulf of Thailand would provide China with its first naval staging facility in Southeast Asia and allow it to significantly expand patrols on the South China Sea. Beijing claims much of the waterway, parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.