China is reportedly building a clandestine naval outpost in Cambodia as part of its plans to extend its global power.
Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, on the Gulf of Thailand, will host an area for solely Chinese use, the Washington Post reported.
A ceremony breaking ground for the facility was expected to be held later this week, with China’s ambassador to Cambodia potentially present.
The base would be China’s first foreign naval base in the Indo-Pacific region. It has another foreign naval base in Djibouti.
An official in Beijing told the Washington Post that part of the new base would be used by the “Chinese military,” but denied it was for China’s “exclusive” use.
It would reportedly include equipment for satellite systems, potentially including missile targeting systems.
The Chinese foreign ministry did not comment.
A Western official told the newspaper that China “wants to become so powerful that the region will give in to China’s leadership.”
A spokesman for the Cambodian Embassy in the US said it was “baseless” to suggest there would be a Chinese naval base, and that Cambodia did not allow foreign military bases. They said Ream was being renovated.
There has been increasing Chinese investment and influence in Cambodia in recent years.
US officials believe China is also aiming to raise its influence and power in numerous other countries including Thailand, Indonesia and Pakistan.
That could allow Beijing to “interfere with US military operations, and support offensive operations against the United States,” according to the Pentagon.
China has the world’s biggest navy with more than 350 vessels, and is expected to add another 100 by the end of this decade.
However, it so far has nothing like the number of bases the US has in strategic positions all over the globe.
The Cambodia base would be strategically beneficial for Beijing, including in relation to the South China Sea.
The suggestion that China could set up at Ream was reported in 2019.
It was said to have signed a secret agreement with Cambodia to use the facilities there, the Wall Street Journal reported.
When it was suggested three years ago that a deal had been done for the base Cambodia described it as “fake news”.
At the time it was suggested that China would build two new piers at the base, one for use by China, and the other for Cambodia.
Cambodians would have to receive permission to go into a 62-acre Chinese area of the base, it was reported.
The Ream base was bombed by the US in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam War, and the Soviet Union later fixed and improved it.
In 2018 Mike Pence, US Vice President at the time, wrote to Cambodia expressing concern at suggestions China could be planning to set up a naval base there.
The Telegraph, UK.