The tearing down of another US-built facility at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base is one more jab of the thumb in the US government’s eye, a sign that Phnom Penh is either swaggeringly indifferent about American sensitivities or still doesn’t quite understand the risks.
The demolition of another US-built facility at the same base in September had the Pentagon once again expressing concerns that the Cambodian government would allow Chinese troops to station themselves on its soil, a major worry for the US and a development that would thrust Cambodia front-and-center of the US-China rivalry.
Phnom Penh claims these facilities are making way for new developments – not the best line given that the latest US-built facility to be demolished was just three years old – and that it hasn’t made any deals for military use with China. Clearly, the Cambodian government has little interest in tempering US concerns over China’s military role in the country. In fact, its latest decision shows a profound lack of care (even hubris) about how its actions are understood in Washington.