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Secret Deal for #Chinese Naval Outpost in #Cambodia Raises #US Fears of Beijing’s Ambitions - Use of Ream naval base would help China’s military project power across a broad swath of Southeast Asia wsj.com/articles/secre…
China has signed a secret agreement allowing its armed forces to use a Cambodian navy base near here, as Beijing works to boost its ability to project military power around the globe, according to U.S. and allied officials familiar with the matter.
The pact—signed this spring but not disclosed by either side—gives China exclusive rights to part of a Cambodian naval installation on the Gulf of Thailand, not far from a large airport now being constructed by a Chinese company.
In order to enter the Chinese section of the naval base, which is exclusive for Chinese use, Cambodia needs to get permission from China. The draft of the agreement says that China will build two new piers, one for China & one for Cambodia, according to US officials.
Here is another map of the new #Chinese naval base in #Cambodia, but in the context of the whole of Southeast Asia. Need to also consider that if the Kra Canal in #Thailand (To bypass the Malacca Strait) ever gets built, the Chinese base would protect its eastern flank.
For further context, here is a map of the new #Chinese naval base in #Cambodia, but in the context of the whole Indian ocean. The base of Djibouti in the west, the upcoming base in Gwadar in the center and now the base in Cambodia in the eastern flank. The picture is very clear.
And if the new #Chinese naval base in #Cambodia was not enough, here is the upcoming new Chinese air base not far from there (Can see everything together in the first map👆). 3400m runway, surely a dual use civilian & military airport. Welcome to the Chinese province of Cambodia.
One possible consequence of this new base, which by the way, it's very close to the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, is that Vietnam may reconsider allowing the US navy to go back to Cam Ranh Bay naval base.
I should note that the Cambodian constitution does not allow foreign bases in Cambodia and since Hun Sen has not changed the constitution, I would assume that he'll call the base just a "facility". Cambodian people are surely not going to be happy about this new developments.
Thread: #Cambodian PM Hun Sen denies plans for a #Chinese military base after WSJ reports a secret deal with #Beijing. #China cites Cambodian denial, but dodges question of whether it, too, disputes report. WSJ update.
#Cambodia, #China ink secret naval port deal: report - The exclusive deal will allow Chinese troops to use the Ream Naval Base, located in southern Preah Sihanouk province, for up to 30 years, with an automatic renewal every 10 years afterwards. asiatimes.com/2019/07/articl…
China currently has only 1 foreign naval base, in Djibouti. A Chinese naval presence in SE Asia would be a strategic game-changer, potentially giving China a new southern flank advantage in its escalating contest for power vis-a-vis the US & its allies in the #SouthChinaSea.
Such an arrangement would cause wider regional ripples, too. Neighboring Thailand, for one, is known to be concerned about the presence of Chinese troops so close to its coastline.
Vietnam, which has been fighting against Chinese expansionism and militarization in the South China Sea for years, would also likely be up in arms, particularly considering its long-time strategic hold over its neighbor.
The secret agreement, which was reportedly reached in the spring of this year, comes amid heated speculation that China has lobbied to build a dual-use naval base in Cambodia, Beijing’s closest ally in Southeast Asia.
Cambodia’s government has denied the July 21 Wall Street Journal report, as it has all rumors and speculation about a Chinese naval presence on its territory, which would violate sovereignty-related provisions in the country’s constitution.
Hun Sen has an increasing firm grip on his military. His eldest son & likely successor, Hun Manet, was promoted to 2nd highest ranking official in the military last year, months after the ruling Cambodia People’s Party rigged a general election to secure all seats in parliament.
The result raised hackles in the US and European Union about the country’s slide away from democracy and towards a de facto one-party state, similar to China’s Communist Party-dominated political system.
The election result and banning of the main opposition party effectively removed any checks and balances on the country’s strategic relations, including with China.
In November last year, Asia Times reported that US Vice President Mike Pence would raise concerns about China building a dual-use naval base in Koh Kong province, located west of Preah Sihanouk, when he arrived in Southeast Asia for a regional summit the following weekend.
Dara Sakor, a US$3.8 billion China-backed real estate investment which encompasses roughly 20% of Cambodia’s coastline and gives a 99-year land lease to the Chinese developer, could genuinely be just a luxury tourist resort, as China has long claimed.
But its airport and deep-water port could also be used for military purposes, strategic analysts and diplomats said. Over the last eight months, however, reports have surfaced that the airport at Dara Sakor was unusually long and had other features that suggested military use.
In July, attention turned to China’s interests in the Ream Naval Base after the US Defense Department asked the Cambodian government to explain why its offer to help restore the base’s training facility and boat depot had been denied.
The rejection “has been seen throughout the US government and is fueling speculation that this sudden change of policy could indicate larger plans for changes at Ream Naval Base, particularly ones that involve hosting Chinese military assets.
Some observers suggest that China initially wanted to develop its own naval facilities within Koh Kong’s Dara Sakor project, but that the media publicity and US criticism caused Beijing to pivot towards a secret deal to use Preah Sihanouk’s naval base instead.
It is possible, of course, that the Chinese military could still use the airport and deep-water port at Dara Sakor for logistical purposes, as the distance between Dara Sakor and Ream Naval Base is less than an hour’s drive.
A key point: When China is asked: “In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, "As I understand it, the Cambodia side denied this." But he declined to respond to repeated questions whether China also denied the report.” Why China's refusal to answer?
Thread: Why #Cambodia yields to #China’s strategic commands - The establishment of a Chinese naval presence in Cambodia is the logical outcome of America’s long-flawed policies towards Phnom Penh asiatimes.com/2019/07/articl…
On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cambodia and China recently signed a secret agreement granting the latter exclusive rights to part of Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand for 30 years, with automatic renewals every 10 years thereafter.
The news follows months of speculation that PM Hun Sen’s government is preparing to host the Chinese navy in southern Cambodia & months of denials from Cambodian officials about such plan. On Monday, Hun Sen declared the report was “the worst ever made-up news against Cambodia.”
Given its potential to alter the balance of power in Southeast Asia, the possibility of a Chinese naval outpost being established in Cambodia has prompted justified alarm in Washington. A Chinese military presence would “disturb peace and stability in Southeast Asia.”
In some ways, however, the establishment of a Chinese naval presence in Cambodia—perilous though it is for both the country and the wider region—is the logical outcome of the existing American policy towards Cambodia.
Since the early 1990s, Western countries including the US have focused heavily on the goal of fostering Western-style democracy, a project that has done little but push long-ruling Hun Sen down the well-trodden pariah’s path to Beijing.
American and Western perceptions of Cambodia remain shaped by the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, which brought together warring Cambodian factions, in a bid to end a long civil war. The Paris treaty created a UN peacekeeping mission to implement its terms.
The treaty turned Cambodia into a pet project of the emerging liberal world order. Cambodia would now be ushered towards democracy & development by a unified “international community.” The only thing in the way was Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander appointed PM in 1985.
Also, Cambodia was small and strategically marginal, and therefore a place, as one American official said of Myanmar in 1989, “where the United States has the luxury of living up to its principles.” These factors frame Cambodia as a worthy subject of human rights concern.......
.... (and pressure to that end), but a nation strangely untethered from the wider story of the shifting balance of power in Southeast Asia. From the very beginning, however, Cambodia’s status as an international “project” has been resisted by Hun Sen and his government.
After a decade of civil war in which US & its allies had cynically backed the Khmer Rouge, a communist government that turned Cambodia into a killing field from 1975 to 1979 before being driven out by the Vietnamese army, the West’s uplifting language about democracy rang hollow.
Hun Sen set about subverting these new democratic institutions, seething all the while at Western governments’ insistence on holding Cambodia to higher standards than those it accepted elsewhere. Hun Sen did little to help his own image, ruthlessly suppressing his opponents.
Nonetheless, its true that his government came under much closer scrutiny on human rights than more strategically important neighboring countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines, whose leaders have in recent years received invitations to the White House.
This is where China comes in. A minor player when the Paris Agreements were signed in 1991, China has since risen to become Cambodia’s most important international backer, its main trade partner, and its primary source of tourism and foreign investment.
That Hun Sen would open the door to Beijing is no surprise. Given his suspicions of Western intentions & attempts by his opponents to leverage US & European pressure against him, it was predictable he would gravitate towards a power with deep pockets & no concern for human rights
Previously, Cambodia’s reliance on Western aid imposed limits on how far it could go in suppressing its opponents. Flush with Chinese cash, in 2017, Hun Sen’s government took the unprecedented steps of banning the CNRP and arresting its new leader Kem Sokha on charges of treason.
Since then, Cambodia has come under a fresh wave of Western pressure to reverse its authoritarian slide. The European Union has begun the process of suspending Cambodia’s tariff-free access to the European markets.
In the US, Cambodia is now viewed almost exclusively in the context of Washington’s escalating tensions with Beijing. A number of bills are currently working their way through Congress, threatening targeted sanctions of various kinds.
Those making such calls risk doubling down on a bankrupt strategy, one that has arguably given Cambodia little choice but to yield to China’s strategic commands, including its alleged demands for exclusive access to its Ream naval base.
Far from leading Hun Sen to distance himself from China, recent pressure has merely deepened the fears and resentments that pushed him towards Beijing in the first place. As relations reach a crisis point, the time has come for the US & other Western governments to initiate......
..... a reset in relations. Need to establish a more realistic balance between the advocacy of democratic principles and broader security concerns. Officials on both sides need to take swift action to re-establish trust before the relationship is damaged beyond repair.
Thread: #Cambodia Denies ‘Secret Agreement’ With #China For Naval Base Use - Yeah, yeah, we believe you Hun Sen, we know how much credibility you have..... voacambodia.com/a/cambodia-den…
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday denied a Wall Street Journal report that Cambodia had signed a secret agreement with China to allow the Chinese Navy use of its Ream Naval base in southwestern Sihanoukville province.
“This is the worst fake news against Cambodia,” said Hun Sen in an interview with Fresh News, a local government-aligned outlet.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that both parties have yet to disclose the agreement. Citing anonymous U.S. officials, the Journal wrote that the agreement would allow the Chinese "to use the base for 30 years, with automatic renewals every 10 years after that"
Hun Sen also mentioned that any presence of the foreign military in Cambodia would be violating its constitution and that there is no such discussion to allow China’s military use of the Cambodian naval base.
Ministry of Defense spokesman Chhum Socheat claimed that the news is “fake,” baseless and exaggerating, saying that Cambodia has never signed any agreement that violates its own constitution.
“We have declared again and again that there is no agreement that [approves] any location for the Chinese military to operate in Cambodia,” said Chhum Socheat. “We have said enough.”
The Ministry of Defense spokesman also expressed on his Facebook account this morning that “foreign media appear to attempt to destroy security and peace in Cambodia and the region.”
However, Emily V. Zeeberg , spokeswomen for the US Embassy in Cambodia expressed concern through email to VOA Khmer this morning after news about the secret agreement broke on the Wall Street Journal.
Noting that the US Embassy “is monitoring media reports,” Zeeberg urged the Cambodia government to be “fully transparent about any military agreement with China” and that foreign military presence in Cambodia would threaten the centrality and coherence of Cambodia in ASEAN.
“We urge Cambodia’s leadership to honor its constitutional commitment to its people to pursue an independent foreign policy, and to protect Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty for future generations,” she said.
My take: Hun Sen has no credibility, he is totally corrupted & in China's pocket. His denials mean nothing. There is plenty of evidence of installations that only make sense if they are for military purposes. Bases no allowed by the constitution? Call them "facilities" then.
Video: #China’s Secret Navy Base Plans in #Cambodia - A good video about the #Chinese naval base at the Ream Cambodian naval base
Thread: 'We can't hide anything' say #Cambodians at alleged #China base - “You journalists. Open your eyes and noses. Today we show you everything,” said defense ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat. “We can’t hide anything ... because there are satellites.” reuters.com/article/us-chi…
Trying to rebut a report of a secret deal to give China access to a naval base, Cambodia’s defense ministry took reporters to see the torpid jetty and outbuildings on Friday.
The United States has also voiced concern that the Ream naval base in southern Cambodia could host forces from China, the closest foreign ally of long-serving authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The Wall Street Journal said on Sunday that China had reached a secret deal with Cambodia this year to let it place forces at Ream. The report cited U.S. and allied officials.
Cambodia denied any such agreement and said hosting foreign forces would be against Cambodia’s constitution.
At Ream, a half dozen gray-painted Cambodian navy patrol boats were moored by the jetty. Sailors in military fatigues stood to attention as the press bus passed. Reporters were not allowed to get off.
Giving China access to facilities in Cambodia would boost its ability to assert contested territorial claims in the South China Sea, challenging U.S. allies in Southeast Asia. The U.S. embassy said it was also monitoring media reports about the potential use of a resort by China.
Some 70 km (40 miles) northwest of Ream, a Chinese company is building a runway at the Dara Sakor resort that is capable of taking some of the world’s biggest planes to serve what for now consists of a rundown casino and a golf course.
My take: It doesn't matter that there is nothing yet, nobody said there is. They just made the deal. What maters is a few years from now, if still nothing, then it would be ok.
Cambodian Thread: Reports of a secret deal for a #Chinese base in #Cambodia are raising fears that Beijing is boxing in the #SouthChinaSea businessinsider.com/secret-base-de…
A report that China cut a deal with Cambodia to use part of a naval base is raising concern that Beijing could extend its reach in the South China Sea and over the Malacca Strait, which connects the Indian and Pacific oceans.
US officials who saw an early draft told The Journal that the agreement would permit China to station military personnel, store weapons, and dock warships at the base and to use the facility for 30 years with automatic renewals every 10 years thereafter.
Under the agreement, US officials said, China would build two new piers, one for itself and one for Cambodia, though they said dredging was likely needed for larger Chinese warships to use it.
Chinese and Cambodian officials denied the reports, and Cambodian defense officials took journalists on what was described as a " stage-managed visit" to the base to show there was no Chinese presence, though the areas on display were reportedly limited.
"A lot of the strategy we've seen is the Chinese are trying to create a ring from essentially their coastline, the South China Sea all the way down through the Indian Ocean & down to East Africa," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration, said.
"If you look at Cambodia & then the Chinese are building a big port in Myanmar, they have a lot of interest in Sri Lanka, off the coast of India & they have this base in Djibouti, it's not hard to see the kind of dotted line that connects all this infrastructure they're building"
"Some of these are outright military facilities, like in Djibouti," Rhodes added. "Some of these begin as infrastructure projects, ports, that then become used for military purposes."
The deal for Ream and Chinese construction of an airport that could handle long-range bombers and military transports at Dara Sakor, an investment zone about 40 miles northwest of the port, has raised concern about Beijing extending the reach of its military.
The company building the airport says it's purely commercial, but it has attracted attention as a potential "dual-use" facility. "The Chinese have claimed, as they've claimed in other aspects of dual-use facilities, that this is totally economic and is tied to ... Dara Sakor,"
"All the estimates that I've seen are [to] the fact that any kind of economic investment opportunity in this area, when you compare that to what is actually being built, with respect to satellite imagery, it's not enough to support any kind of civilian or economic opportunity....
..... in and of itself," Parameswaran said. "So clearly there's something else that's going on."
US officials believe that something could be military in nature.
Coupling a Cambodian outpost with Chinese military facilities on islands in the South China Sea would essentially create "a triangular perimeter boxing in all of mainland Southeast Asia,"
A US official also told The Journal that a Chinese military presence at either facility would "greatly complicate" the US's ability to come to Taiwan's assistance in a conflict.
Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said a Chinese base in Cambodia was unlikely to resemble Beijing's outposts in the South China Sea, comparing it instead to the Djibouti facility, "which allows a modest Chinese rotational presence."
While details of any deal remain unclear, Poling said in an email, "the base doesn't give China much power-projection capabilities over the South China Sea that it doesn't already have."
"But it would allow Beijing to project power, especially air power, over the Gulf of Thailand, Strait of Malacca & Andaman Sea in a way it couldn't before, adding that projection isn't the same as "control". Others there such as US & India have power-projection capabilities too.
US officials are debating whether Cambodia can be convinced to change its mind about the base and reverse what is seen as a shift away from the US and toward Beijing. News of a potential deal likely has others reevaluating where they stand.
Vietnam and Thailand will be concerned about a growing Chinese military presence in Cambodia, Parameswaran said. I think in the last few years the Chinese inroads in Cambodia have also alarmed both Thailand and Vietnam."
Thailand is a treaty ally and now has an elected government that would allow it to pursue closer cooperation with the US, if the Trump administration is open to that, Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, said in an email.
Vietnam's situation is more difficult, given its complicated ties with China. Its government can reach out to Beijing directly but will face internal pressure to do more with the US; it could also appeal to Russia, Lohman said.
Beijing has built a "significant political-security relationship" with Thailand over the last 30 years, while closer relations with Cambodia have yielded "a lot of diplomatic payout. A Chinese presence a Ream would likely squander ties Beijing has built in the region.
"Why build a base and complicate the relationship with the Thais when you're already getting so much out of current arrangements?" Lohman said. "If the stories are true, I think the Chinese are overplaying their hand."
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