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Home / World / Secret agreement for Chinese Navy outpost in Cambodia raises US fears of Beijing's ambitions

Secret agreement for Chinese Navy outpost in Cambodia raises US fears of Beijing's ambitions

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia – China has signed a secret agreement allowing its armed forces to use a nearby Cambodian naval base, as Beijing, according to the US and Allied officials familiar with Cambodia, is working to increase its military power around the country Promote globe matter.

The pact, which was signed this spring but has not been announced by any side, gives China exclusive rights to part of a Cambodian naval facility on the Gulf of Thailand, near a major airport currently under construction by a Chinese company.

Details of the final agreement are unclear, officials said, but an early draft US officials saw would allow China to use the base for 30 years, with automatic renewals every 1

0 years thereafter. According to the draft, China could send military personnel, store weapons and build warships.


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Military operations from the naval base, the airport, or both would significantly increase Beijing's capacity to enforce territorial claims and economic interests in the South China Sea, threaten American allies in Southeast Asia, and expand its hold on the strategically important Malacca Strait.

Chinese and Cambodian officials have denied that there are plans for a Chinese military base in the country. "Nothing happens like that," said Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan on Friday. He called it "fake news".

Naval Outpost

China's military will exclusively use part of the Ream naval base in Cambodia, US officials say.

Recently cleared ground,

apparently for construction

US funded facilities

are laid

Dara Sakor

International airport

Recently cleared land

apparently for construction works

19659018] US-funded facilities

are relocated

Dara Sakor

International Airport

Property recently vacated,

apparently for construction

US-funded facilities

are relocated

19659026] Dara Sakor

International Airport

Dara Sakor

International Airport

US funded facilities

are relocated

Recently vacated premises

evidently for the construction

in the However, the US and Allied officials said that an agreement has been reached that will put Beijing in front of a complete Chinese base, but at the same time that it will eradicate it Its own naval base in Southeast Asia and a second outpost would give what the Pentagon sees as a Chinese task for a global network of military and dual-use locations.

Washington is "concerned that any move by the Cambodian government to invite a foreign military presence in Cambodia" would disrupt peace and stability in the region, said Emily Zeeberg, spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Surrounded by dense jungles and mangroves, surmounted by a Buddhist temple, the Ream naval installation in question spans an area of ​​approximately 190 acres and includes two US-funded facilities used by the Cambodian Navy single pier on which a dozen patrol boats moor.

According to the early draft of the Basic Agreement, China would build two new pillars – one for Chinese purposes, one for Cambodian, US officials said. US officials said more dredging is likely to be needed to allow the base to accommodate larger Chinese naval vessels.

The bill also allows China's personnel to carry arms and Cambodian passports and demands that Cambodians receive Chinese permission to enter the 62-acre Chinese section of Ream, US officials said.

Sihanoukville has attracted a large number of Chinese tourists and millions of dollars in investment, mainly in casinos and beach hotels.

United States. Officials discuss whether Washington can persuade Phnom Penh to reverse his decision on Ream. Some US officials and analysts believe that the US has overstated its relationship with Cambodia and has frequently criticized the government's human rights record and has not offered enough carrots.

A senior Pentagon official said the US wanted Cambodia to be a "Preferred Security Partner," but other officials said Phnom Penh had turned to Beijing. There was no response to White House requests for comments.

US. and Allied colleagues call on Cambodia to prohibit China's military from using the large new airport built in Dara Sakor, about 40 miles northwest of Ream, by a 99-year-old Chinese private company on a sparsely populated stretch of coastline in Cambodia ,

Recent satellite images show that the work has progressed rapidly in the past year. The site now has a three-kilometer runway – big enough for the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380, as well as for China's long-range bombers and military transports.

The images also show, according to US and Allied officials, what it looks like to prepare the runway curves for fast takeoffs and landings of military aircraft, especially hunters. The company that builds the airport says it's purely commercial.

Combat aircraft flying from Dara Sakor could attack targets in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and elsewhere.

China opened its first military outpost abroad, in the East African nation of Djibouti in 2017, to facilitate operations around the Indian Ocean and Africa. Since 2014, China has also built seven heavily fortified artificial islands in the South China Sea – three of them with runways.

A Cambodian outpost would further cement China's influence on a country whose authoritarian government is backed by Chinese credit, investment and diplomatic power, as Beijing increasingly asks Washington for economic and military influence in developing countries.

Dara Sakor International Airport is located in a national park in the sparsely populated province of Koh Kong and will be Cambodia's largest.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, in power for decades, denied having a plan for a Chinese military base in Cambodia in November after the vice-US military President Mike Pence wrote that he was worried about the problem ,

China's defense minister denied in June that Beijing is establishing a military presence in Cambodia. China's Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for comment.

Before China opened its outpost in Djibouti, which it refers to as the Navy's "logistics base," Beijing repeatedly denied plans for bases overseas.

Cambodian institutions with China's military outposts in the South China Sea. "Basically, you have a triangular scope throughout Southeast Asia," said Charles Edel, former US Secretary of State Advisor, who is now an analyst in the US Study Center in Sydney.

A Chinese presence in one of the two facilities would also "greatly aggravate" the USA's ability to help Taiwan if Beijing decides to attack the island, according to a US official, English: emagazine.credit-suisse. com / app / art … 1007 & lang = de Cold war is coming through the Straits of Malacca or the outer part of the South China Sea.

A model of the Dara Sakor project shows hotels, luxury apartments and at least one container port and the airport.

The US bombed the base at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 after China-backed Khmer Rouge forces seized power in Cambodia and captured an American container ship. After Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978, the Soviet Navy repeatedly visited Ream and helped repair and upgrade facilities, deepening the waters.

Washington has been trying to re-establish relations with Cambodia over the past decade, resuming assistance in 2007, conducting joint military exercises and funding the Ream facilities. Tensions have intensified again as Hun Sen has tightened power.

China has now made rapid progress, attracting millions of tourists and billions of dollars in investment and loans, much of it as part of the Beijing Belt and Road World Infrastructure Plan, focusing on the deep water port of Sihanoukville, about 16 km from Ream away.

US officials said they first learned of Ream's negotiations between China and Cambodia about a year ago, whereupon Mr. Pence's letter came in. Recent satellite imagery shows that an area within the Ream base has recently been under preparation was cleared on construction work. A bridge at the entrance is also repaired.

Meanwhile, a state-owned Chinese construction company is working at Dara Sakor Airport, which is due to open next year and which, despite its population density in a province with a population of over 300, will be the largest in Cambodia with 200,000 people.

The Chinese company behind the new airport, Union Group, claims to be part of a $ 3.8 billion plan to develop the 36,000 hectares of land – including about 20% of the Cambodian coast in 2008. [19659061] Dara Sakor Resort has not attracted many visitors since opening and one of its main buildings is undergoing renovations.

The company's showroom in Phnom Penh, however, plans to build five-star resorts, golf courses, marinas, two container ports, high-tech industrial areas, and a "new city" of luxury residences.

So far The only casino and golf resort completed in 2014 has not attracted many tourists so far. In one recent visit, seven out of about 100 hotel rooms were occupied and little progress was made on other pledged facilities.

Representatives of the union group claimed to have underestimated transport difficulties and believe that the airport will attract 300,000 Chinese visitors annually. Western officials are skeptical.

"The Cambodian runway appears to be much longer than required for a normal commercial purpose or an aircraft, and certainly longer than necessary for any tourist development envisaged there," said an Australian intelligence official.

"We have some worried that China will use the same game book as in the South China Sea and create local facts until it is too late to object. "

Write to Jeremy Page at Jeremy .page @ wsj.com, Gordon Lubold at [email protected], and Rob Taylor at [email protected]

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