Demolition of U.S.-Funded Cambodia Navy Facility a ‘Sovereign’ Decision-Defense Minister

“We are developing Ream Naval Base to make it larger. Now it is small and the water is shallow,” Tea Banh told RFA.

Cambodia has demolished U.S.-funded facilities at a naval base as part of plans to replace them in larger port facility elsewhere, the country’s defense minister said in a weekend interview, rejecting Washington’s concerns about the plan and possible Chinese involvement as meddling it its sovereignty.

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.

Prime Minister 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.

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