Sun, 29 May 2022

Phnom Penh [Cambodia], January 23 (ANI): China's pursuit of a Cambodian naval base causes geopolitical tension as Beijing has started to dredge in the waters surrounding Cambodia's Ream naval base.

Work to deepen the bay will mark a milestone in upgrades to the site, where the shallow waters can currently only accommodate small patrol vessels, according to Nikkei Asia.

Further, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)'s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative on Saturday released a January 16 satellite image showing two clamshell dredgers just off the coast of Ream accompanied by barges for collecting dredged sand.

The vessels were also visible in a photo uploaded to Facebook by the Cambodian Minister of National Defense Tea Banh, who visited the site on the Gulf of Thailand on January 18 this year.

China is funding upgrades at Ream naval base including an expansion of the port and the development of a ship repair facility.

On the other hand, US has raised concerns that China is planning to host military assets at the base.

In 2019, the US had seen a draft agreement between Cambodia and China that allowed Beijing to use Ream for 30 years, as reported by Wall Street Journal.

Earlier, in June last year, US senior diplomat Wendy Sherman visited Phnom Penh and told Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that Washington had "serious concerns" about China's "military presence" at the site.

Onshore, work has continued on the expansion, with several locations within the main administrative center in the southwest of the site having been cleared.

Satellite images also show clearing for roads and a possible fence near a Vietnam-funded hospital and a small building and several concrete lots have also appeared along the coast.

Taken together, the scale of recent demolition and land clearing, and especially the new dredging activity, indicates that the base is being prepared for significant infrastructure upgrades, CSIS report mentions. (ANI)

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