Cambodia ‘can’t admit’ China’s navy is using Ream as a base – but it sure looks a lot like it

Cambodia says the two Chinese warships that have been docked at Ream Naval Base for the past five months are there for joint military drills. But analysts suspect their presence has more to do with hawking military hardware and establishing an outpost ‘to stop, rest, refuel, and resupply’

Officially, China only has one overseas naval base: in the east African country of Djibouti. But the five-monthlong presence of Chinese warships at a newly expanded facility in Cambodia points to a second port of call much closer to home, analysts say – even if Phnom Penh “cannot admit” it.

The prolonged Chinese military deployment was first revealed last month by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, with a secondary analysis of commercial satellite imagery last week confirming that the two ships remained docked at a new pier in Ream Naval Base, which was built with Chinese funding.

According to the Cambodian Defence Ministry, the two Chinese vessels are in the country for the annual Golden Dragon military exercise, which began on Thursday and involves more than 2,000 troops from both countries.

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