China, Cambodia Begin Construction on Port, Dismiss US Concerns

The two Asian countries denied reports that said China was secretly building a military base in Cambodia

Chinese and Cambodian officials broke ground on Wednesday to launch construction at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand, a project that has drawn criticism from the US and other Western nations.

Since 2019, the US has claimed China is secretly planning to build a military base at Ream. Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that China is constructing a naval base at the port for the “exclusive” use of its military, but both Beijing and Phnom Penh deny the claim.

According to Cambodian officials, the construction project will include a new dry dock for ship repairs, an extended pier, a hospital, a workshop, and a reception building. Cambodia insists it won’t allow a Chinese military facility since its constitution prohibits the presence of foreign military bases on its soil.

“Please don’t be too worried about this Ream base,” said Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh. “This port is too small and even after upgrading it can’t be a port that would threaten any countries.” Tea Banh said he invited representatives from the US and other countries to the construction site to show them “there is nothing here.”

But the US still expressed concern about the project. “The US 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,” Stephanie Arzate, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, told The Associated Press.

Last year, the US slapped sanctions on two Cambodian officials over the Chinese financing of the port project, which was followed by a US arms embargo on Cambodia. But the pressure has backfired on Washington. After the sanctions were imposed, China and Cambodia signed an agreement to boost military ties.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.