This week brought another update in the ongoing saga of the possible Chinese military presence in southern Cambodia. Building on previously reporting about a possible arrangement granting China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy access to the Ream Naval Base, the Washington Post reported on Monday that China is “secretly building a naval facility in Cambodia for the exclusive use of its military.” Citing unnamed Western officials, the report claimed that both countries were “taking extraordinary measures to conceal the operation.”
Most interestingly, the report also quoted a Chinese official, also anonymous, as saying that “a portion of the base” will be used by “the Chinese military” – the first official confirmation to this effect by a Chinese government source. The official denied it was for “exclusive” use by the military, however, and added that scientists would also use the facility.
Cambodian officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Ream modernization project this morning, presided over by Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh and Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian. Indeed, Cambodian government social media accounts broadcast photos of the two officials enjoying a sultry ocean dip in nearby Sihanoukville, a hub of Chinese investment.