Does the Chinese Navy Want a Base in Cambodia?

The presence of a base in Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand would provide the PLAN with a new southern flank in the South China Sea.

A new base could strengthen the Chinese navy near the highly strategic Strait of Malacca, through which an estimated 80 percent of China’s fuel imports travel.

In October 2020, the United States announced its disappointment that the Cambodian government was tearing down a U.S.-funded building that was used for a maritime security program, but Washington also voiced serious concerns that the Cambodian actions were linked to the possible transformation of the facility for use by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

Phnom Penh has maintained what has been described as a “cozy relationship“ with Beijing for many years, but it was only last year that the controversy over the Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand intensified when reports circulated that China was seeking a thirty-year lease of the base. That would include the posting of military personnel along with the store of weapons and berthing of warships.

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