At a ceremony this week, Cambodian and Chinese officials proclaimed their friendship as they announced a new construction project. Holding spades decorated with red bows, they turned over soil to signal the start of building work at Cambodia’s biggest naval base, Ream. It will be expanded and renovated, thanks to a Chinese grant of an undisclosed sum – a development that has alarmed the US.
“China and Cambodia have become ironclad brothers,” said China’s ambassador to Cambodia, Wang Wentian, at the ceremony.
For years, reports have circulated about the base, suggesting that Cambodia planned to grant exclusive use to China’s military. Such an arrangement would give Beijing enhanced access to the contested South China Sea, and mark a major expansion of its military and economic clout in the Indo-Pacific.