The US accused Cambodia of not being transparent about Chinese construction at a naval base in the Southeast Asian country.
The US has been claiming that Cambodia is allowing China to build a military base at its Ream Naval Base, but Phnom Penh has repeatedly denied the accusation since the country’s constitution does not allow foreign military bases. Regardless, the US still claims Cambodia is hiding something.
“The government of Cambodia has not been fully transparent about the intent, nature, and scope of this project or the role of the PRC military, which raises concerns about intended use of the naval facility,” said Chad Roedemeier, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Cambodia.
The US statement came after the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a hawkish American think tank, released satellite images of what it says are new buildings at the Ream Naval Base that were built in August and September.
Phay Siphan, a Cambodian government spokesman, said the construction was just part of China’s assistance to the country. “Our port is open to all when the construction is finished,” he said. “If there are other friends who want to help constructing, we allow and when the construction is finished, we welcome all countries to use it.”
In 2020, Cambodia demolished a US-funded building at Ream, fueling rumors of a future Chinese base at the port. But Cambodia said at the time that the building was only temporary and would be relocated.
The US stance towards Cambodia follows a pattern of Washington trying to bully other countries out of doing business with China or participating in Beijing’s infrastructure project, known as the Belt and Road Initiative.