Earlier this month 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.
The base, which is operated by the Royal Cambodian Navy in the province of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, covers approximately 190 acres. Since 2010 it has been the site of annual joint Cambodian-United States training and naval exercises under the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) program.