China, Cambodia break ground on port, dismiss US concerns

Jun 7, 2022, 2:54 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 4:15 am
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows a Cambodian naval base in Ream, Cambodia, April 25,...

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows a Cambodian naval base in Ream, Cambodia, April 25, 2022. Cambodian officials broke ground Wednesday, June 8, 2022, on a naval port expansion project in Ream, dismissing American concerns it could provide Beijing with a strategically important outpost on the Gulf of Thailand. (Planet Labs PBC via AP Photo)

(Planet Labs PBC via AP Photo)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Chinese and Cambodian officials broke ground Wednesday on a contentious naval port expansion project, dismissing American concerns it could provide Beijing with a strategically important military outpost on the Gulf of Thailand.

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian and other officials donned white gloves before turning over shovels full of dirt to launch the official “modernization” of the Ream Naval Base, which will include a dry dock for ship repairs, an extended pier, a hospital, a workshop and a “reception building.”

Longtime authoritarian leader Hun Sen in 2019 reportedly granted China the right to set up a military base at Ream, but has long denied that, saying Cambodia’s Constitution prohibits foreign military facilities.

Dredging is already underway to allow larger ships to use the port. Tea Banh told guests, including the U.S. defense attaché, that it would still only be able to accommodate ships of up to 5,000 tons displacement — an improvement from the current 1,000 tons but too shallow for all but the smallest of naval ships.

“Please don’t be too worried about this Ream base,” Tea Banh said, speaking in front of a sign proclaiming the project is being funded by “grant aid from the People’s Republic of China.”

“This port is too small and even after upgrading it can’t be a port that would threaten any countries,” he said.

Tea Banh said he invited the U.S. and other foreign representatives to the base so they could see for themselves “there is nothing here,” though he added that once construction is complete the facility will become a restricted military zone with no access for foreign nations.

Following the ceremony, the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh reiterated American concerns that a Chinese “military presence at Ream could threaten Cambodia’s autonomy and undermine regional security.”

“The U.S. and countries in the region have expressed concern about the lack of transparency on the intent, nature, and scope of this project as well as the role the PRC military is playing in its construction and in post-construction use of the facility,” embassy spokesperson Stephanie Arzate said in an email to The Associated Press.

Ream faces the Gulf of Thailand, adjacent to the South China Sea, where China has aggressively asserted its claim to virtually the entire strategic waterway. The U.S. has refused to recognize China’s sweeping claim and routinely conducts military maneuvers there to reinforce that they are international waters.

Tea Banh said the port project is expected to take two years to complete. He did not say how much it would cost, but China has given Cambodia hundreds of millions of dollars in grants in recent years for infrastructure projects.

Chinese Ambassador Wang said the construction will follow a plan agreed upon by Hun Sen and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this year to “further promote the building of a community with a shared future with strategic significance.”

“China and Cambodia have become ironclad brothers, economical with words but generous in action, treating each other with all sincerity and standing side by side at challenging times,” he said, according to an English translation of his remarks provided by the Chinese delegation.

The U.S. in November sanctioned two senior Cambodian defense officials over allegations of graft connected to construction financing at the Ream base, and Wang lashed out at the move, without mentioning the United States by name.

“Some countries keep smearing legitimate exchanges and cooperation between China and Cambodia and arbitrarily impose unilateral sanctions on Cambodia under the false subterfuge of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights,’ blatantly interfering in Cambodia’s internal affairs through ‘long-arm jurisdiction,'” he said. “We firmly oppose all these misbehaviors.”

He said when completed, the base will be a monument to “the ironclad friendship and cooperation between the two militaries” of China and Cambodia.

China only operates one acknowledged foreign military base, in the impoverished but strategically important Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, but many believe that its People’s Liberation Army is busy establishing an overseas military network, even if it doesn’t use the term “base.”

Beijing recently signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands that has raised fears of a possible Chinese outpost in the Pacific, and it has reached out to multiple other island nations in the region.

The U.S. has more foreign military bases than any other country, including multiple facilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

___

Rising reported from Bangkok.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Germany, Ireland slam UK move toward overriding Brexit deal

LONDON (AP) — Germany and Ireland have condemned the U.K government’s move towards unilaterally rewriting parts of the post-Brexit deal with the European Union. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Irish counterpart Simon Coveney said there was “no legal or political justification” for overriding the agreed trade rules in Northern Ireland. Writing in British newspaper […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

‘Join us in California’: Newsom targets GOP in Florida ad

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom is running for reelection in California, but his latest television ad is airing in Florida. The 30-second spot scheduled to air on Fox News starting Monday takes shots at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his policies, while drawing a contrast with California. “Freedom, it’s under attack in your […]
14 hours ago
Tywan Junius III holds a sign with help from his father Tywan Junius II during a protest in front o...
Associated Press

Police: Man shot was unarmed, officers feared he would fire

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A Black man shot and killed by Akron police officers in a hail of bullets following a vehicle and foot pursuit was unarmed at the time of the shooting, but a shot appeared to have come from the vehicle during the pursuit, and officers said they feared he was preparing to […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Shark attacks Long Island lifeguard during training exercise

FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. (AP) — Suffolk County officials closed a Long Island beach to swimming Sunday after what they described as an unprecedented shark attack that injured a lifeguard. The lifeguard had been playing the role of a victim during a training exercise when the shark bit him in the chest and hand, Suffolk County […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Missouri lawmaker resigns from House after fraud conviction

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri legislator has resigned her seat after being convicted of falsely claiming she was giving patients stem cell treatments for COVID-19. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday that Republican state Rep. Tricia Derges of Nixa sent her resignation letter to House Speaker Rob Vescovo on Friday. She was convicted in […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Feds: R. Kelly remains on suicide watch ‘for his own safety”

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal authorities are pushing back on R. Kelly’s claims that he was placed on suicide watch as a form of punishment last week after a judge sentenced him to 30 years behind bars for using his fame to sexually abuse young girls. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn filed court papers […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
China, Cambodia break ground on port, dismiss US concerns