China warships docked in Cambodia 5 mths ago, govt says not permanent

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia‘s defence ministry insisted on Wednesday that the months-long presence of two Chinese warships in a strategically important naval base that is being newly expanded with funding from Beijing does not constitute a permanent deployment of the Chinese military in the country.
Questions had arisen after the Centre for Strategic and International Studies reported last month that two Chinese corvettes that docked at the Ream Naval Base‘s new pier in Dec had maintained a nearly permanent presence there since.Satellite images confirm that the two ships remained there on Wednesday, more than five months since they initially appeared. The US and others have long worried that the new pier at the Ream Naval Base, built with Chinese funding, could serve as a new outpost for the Chinese navy on the Gulf of Thailand, but Cambodia has said that would not happen. Asked about why the two ships had been there for five months, defence ministry spokesperson Gen Chhum Socheat said they were due to take part in a joint Cambodian-Chinese military exercise later this month, and that they were also involved in training Cambodian sailors. “We have been clear that Cambodia is not allowing any foreign forces to be deployed on its territory,” he said.
He said the ships were also “testing” the new pier, and that they were on show for Cambodia, which was considering purchasing similar warships for its own navy. “The ships are docked for the training period only, they are not staying permanently.”
Controversy over Ream Naval Base initially arose in 2019 when Wall Street Journal reported that an early draft of an agreement would allow China 30-year use of the base, where it would be able to post military personnel, store weapons and berth warships. The base sits adjacent to the South China Sea, where China has aggressively asserted its claim to virtually the entire strategic waterway, and also provides easy access to the Malacca Straits, a critical shipping route leading from it to the Indian Ocean.
China only operates one acknowledged foreign military base in the strategically key Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, but many believe that it is establishing an overseas network. The US has more foreign military bases than any other country, including in the Asia-Pacific


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