Friday, June 21, 2024

China’s expanding naval presence in Cambodia raises concerns

Satellite imagery has revealed startling developments in China’s naval base construction in Cambodia’s Ream, heightening concerns about its scale and purpose.

Recent evidence points to the construction of an extensive dry dock, surpassing any requirement for Cambodia’s small naval fleet, casting doubts on the official explanation of its intended use.

Analysts from Naval News have noted that the new dry dock, far larger than necessary for Cambodian naval vessels, fuels suspicions that the base could serve larger military purposes beyond Cambodia’s needs. Speculation looms over its potential utilization for Chinese naval operations, considering the base’s strategic location east of the Malacca Strait, a pivotal route between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

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While Cambodia has officially cited its own navy’s reconstruction with Chinese aid, the infrastructure’s scale and sophistication suggest a different narrative. The Royal Cambodian Navy’s limited fleet, primarily comprising vessels under 50 meters, contradicts the scale of this new development.

Earlier satellite observations also revealed a pier with the capacity to accommodate aircraft carriers, raising international concerns regarding China’s expanding influence in the region. Despite official claims from Cambodia’s Defense Ministry denying any intention of using the base to augment China’s regional dominance, international scrutiny remains high.

The United States has raised apprehensions regarding the base, emphasizing that its exclusive military use by China could pose a substantial threat to Southeast Asia’s stability. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed these concerns during a visit to Phnom Penh, highlighting the potential ramifications of China’s military presence in the region.

Chhum Socheat, a spokesperson for Cambodia’s National Defense Ministry, confirmed the imminent completion of the construction but refrained from disclosing an inauguration date. He dismissed speculations about China’s geopolitical motives, emphasizing the base’s purportedly benign intent.

“I regret that there is untrue information. Cambodia is very small. They [some countries] have bad intentions on our country,” he said.

“Some countries don’t acknowledge the truth, and they still say untrue information,” he said.

As tensions escalate between global powers in the Indo-Pacific region, the evolving narrative around China’s expanding naval presence in Cambodia’s Ream raises critical questions about its strategic intent, geopolitical implications, and the potential impact on regional stability.

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Executive Editor

About author:

Daisuke Sato
Daisuke Sato
Daisuke Sato is defense reporter, covering the Asia-Pacific defense industrial base, defense markets and all related issues. He has covered the US and Japan bilateral exercises for several years.

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