Last week, Cambodia and China held a groundbreaking ceremony for a modernization project at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base. The ceremony came on the heels of a report in The Washington Post alleging that China is secretly building a portion of the naval facility for exclusive use by the Chinese military.
Both governments were quick to deny that China was being allowed to establish its own military base in the country, and the Cambodian government insisted that their constitution prohibits foreign military bases on their soil. China is funding the modernization of the facility, and it seems likely that Chinese forces would be able to make use of it in the future, but this is a modest development that doesn’t warrant a severe reaction from the United States.
The U.S. has worried about possible Chinese installations in Cambodia for many years, and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman pointedly warned Cambodia about the dangers of hosting Chinese bases when she visited the country in 2021. Some media outlets have echoed the government’s alarmed response. One Time headline blared that a “new Chinese naval base…signals a new era of competition in the Asia-Pacific region.”