China's Dominance

A Cause for Concern? - Examining the Implications of China's Extended Presence

Main image to the post A Cause for Concern? - Examining the Implications of China's Extended Presence

Concerns and Assurances

The presence of Chinese warships at Cambodia's Ream Naval Base for over five months has sparked concerns about the permanence of their deployment. Despite assurances from Cambodia's Defense Ministry that this is not a permanent arrangement, questions remain about the significance of their extended stay.

Satellite images confirm the presence of two Chinese corvettes at the base, fueling speculation about China's intentions in the strategically important Gulf of Thailand region. The base, undergoing expansion with Chinese funding, has raised fears that it could serve as a new outpost for the Chinese navy, a notion Cambodia vehemently denies.

Cambodia's Defense Ministry spokesperson, Gen. Chhum Socheat, maintains that the ships are participating in joint military exercises with Cambodia and are training Cambodian sailors. He emphasizes that Cambodia does not allow any foreign forces to be permanently deployed on its territory, as stipulated in its Constitution.

Socheat explains that the ships are also evaluating the new pier and showcasing their capabilities to Cambodia, which is considering similar acquisitions for its navy. He reiterates that the ships are docked only for the training period and are not staying permanently.

Controversy surrounding the Ream Naval Base emerged in 2019 amid reports of a purported agreement granting China a 30-year lease. Cambodia's then-Prime Minister Hun Sen denied the existence of such an agreement, asserting that Cambodia welcomes ships from all nations but prohibits foreign military bases.

While Cambodia's Constitution prohibits foreign military bases, concerns remain about the potential implications of China's involvement in the base's expansion. The base's proximity to the South China Sea and the Malacca Straits adds geopolitical significance to the situation, amid ongoing disputes over territorial claims and freedom of navigation.

The United States has closely monitored developments at the Ream Naval Base, conducting military maneuvers in the region to assert the international nature of these waters. However, Cambodia maintains that it upholds its constitutional principles and welcomes ships from all countries for visits.

Despite assurances from Cambodian officials, observers remain vigilant, particularly in light of China's expanding overseas military presence. While China currently operates only one acknowledged foreign military base in Djibouti, its activities in Cambodia raise questions about its broader regional strategic objectives.

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Round userpic of the post author Bella Ciao
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May 21, 2023 | 05:09