“The government of Cambodia has not been fully transparent about the intent, nature and scope of this project or the role of the [Chinese] military, which raises concerns about intended use of the naval facility,” embassy spokesman Chad Roedemeier said in a statement.
A Cambodian government spokesman denied China was building a facility for its military, saying the Chinese project at the naval base was part of its development assistance
“Our port is open to all when the construction is finished,” spokesman Phay Siphan said.
Change in Cambodia: Sihanoukville's Chinese influx
Cambodia has traditionally had
and there have been growing concerns in the US that China has privileged access to the base, which is strategically located on the Gulf of Thailand near the South China Sea.
In June, US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman raised “serious concerns” during a trip to Cambodia over the Chinese military presence and construction of facilities at the Ream base. She said a Chinese military base in the country would threaten regional security and hurt ties between the US and Cambodia.
Defence Minister Tea Banh told Sherman that China was helping to build infrastructure there but it came with “no strings attached”. A week later – despite Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen indicating that US embassy officials could regularly visit the base – a US defence attaché was
during a visit.
There have been tensions over the demolition of two US-funded buildings – the tactical headquarters of the National Committee for Maritime Security – at the naval base last year. The US also said Cambodia had rejected its offer to repair the base in 2019. That was the year Cambodia and China reached a construction agreement for the base, where a large area was then cleared and fenced off. According to the CSIS report, satellite images show construction began in May this year, next to where the US-funded buildings had stood.
Cambodian officials have said the demolition of the US-funded facility was unrelated to any Chinese construction plans and it would be relocated to a more suitable location.