US calls on Cambodia to explain its plans for Ream Naval Base — Radio Free Asia

US calls on Cambodia to explain its plans for Ream Naval Base — Radio Free Asia

The U.S. federal government on Monday required complete transparency from Cambodia about Beijing-backed repairs at its Ream Naval Base following verification by Phnom Penh of sand dredging activities at the website.
In an emailed statement, Chad Roedemeier, the representative for the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, informed RFAs Khmer Service that Washington knows independent reporting that China is engaged in “a significant, ongoing building project at Ream Naval Base,” located outside Cambodias primary port city of Sihanoukville.
” We motivate Cambodian authorities to be fully transparent about the intent, nature and scope of this project– and the role the [Chinese] military is playing, which raises issues about the planned use of the marine center,” Roedemeier stated.
The embassy declaration came a day after a Cambodian Defense Ministry official verified sand dredging activity at the base to increase depth to 5-6 meters (16-20 feet) from 2 meters (7 feet).
” Yes, in truth there is sand dredging activities– it appears they are creating a pass [for ships to dredge],” the head of the Ream Naval Base Modernization Project, Gen. Chao Phirun, informed RFA of the Chinese activities at the base on Sunday.
” It is the Ministry of National Defense that sent out people to help pump and dredge the sediment to make method for gain access to, however the area is very shallow, and the ships might not make it.
Chao Phirun– one of 2 senior Cambodian military officials approved by the U.S. Treasury and State Departments in November for conspiring to illicitly benefit from the task at Ream– said it is uncertain when the pumping will be completed due to the fact that only one digging up barge is running at the website. He acknowledged that employees and technical staff from China are operating at the base however said no military personnel had actually been sent out by Beijing.
Chao Phirun spoke with RFA in response to a Jan. 21 report by the influential U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, which mentioned satellite imagery as showing two big dredging barges in operation at the Ream Naval Base.
Secret contract
U.S. authorities have voiced alarm for more than 2 years over the China-backed refurbishment of Ream Naval Base, following a 2019 Wall Street Journal report on a secret treaty giving the Chinese navy usage of the base for 30 years. The claim was rapidly denounced by the Cambodian government as “phony news,” however suspicions remain.
During a June check out to Cambodia, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman cautioned her hosts that a Chinese base in Cambodia would adversely impact relations with the United States.
The November sanctions versus Chao Phirun and Ministry of Defense Tea Vinh were announced in combination with a Commerce Department advisory cautioning U.S. organizations of the “potential direct exposure to entities in Cambodia, such as the Cambodian military, that engage in human rights abuses, corruption, and other destabilizing conduct.”
The arms embargo covers not simply standard weaponry, however also so-called “dual-use” equipment, which are products that could have both business and military or national security applications.
Accusations denied
Speaking to RFA on Monday, Chao Phirun called claims about repairs at the Ream Naval Base “allegations,” and rejected that China would use the site in the future.
” There are no Chinese military authorities, only technicians and engineers. They pertained to help … research study, survey, determine which strategy to follow, due to the fact that we dont have lots of marine experts,” he said.
” It isnt a military force, its a manpower. They are employees from a company that was successfully tendered by the Chinese Ministry of Defense. At the end of their tasks, they will return home. They can be found in groups of 10 to 20 individuals. [But] there are no troops camping there.”
When the task is completed, he stated, the Cambodian navy will have the ability to use the site to repair its small ships, which previously needed towing to neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.
He stated that the Chinese military is not welcome to use Ream Naval Base due to the fact that doing so would breach Cambodias constitution however added that Cambodia is entitled to get training and military help from abroad as it sees fit.
Reported by RFAs Khmer Service. Equated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
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,” the head of the Ream Naval Base Modernization Project, Gen. Chao Phirun, informed RFA of the Chinese activities at the base on Sunday.
” It is the Ministry of National Defense that sent individuals to assist pump and dredge the sediment to make way for gain access to, but the location is really shallow, and the ships may not make it.” It isnt a military force, its a labor force. They are workers from a business that was effectively tendered by the Chinese Ministry of Defense. Reported by RFAs Khmer Service.

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