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Another US-built facility demolished at a naval base at the center of rumors about a secret deal with China


Cambodia Ream naval base

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Recent satellite imagery shows that another US-built facility at a naval base in Cambodia has been demolished, researchers at a US think tank said Monday.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies published images that showed the Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat maintenance facility at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base was standing on October 1 but was gone on November 4.

CSIS published imagery in early October that showed another US-built facility, the Tactical Headquarters of the National Committee for Maritime Security, was torn down in September.

The Pentagon said in October that the demolition of that building, just south of the maintenance facility, was concerning.

Reports that the buildings had been torn down have revived concerns raised in 2019 about a secret deal between Cambodia and China that would allow Beijing to use the Ream base to station military personnel, store weapons, and dock warships for decades.

Cambodia’s government has repeatedly denied that it made such a deal, and officials said in October that the headquarters facility had been razed to allow for further expansion and that it would be relocated, while denying reports of Chinese involvement.

Last year, the Pentagon asked Cambodia to explain why it turned down a 2018 offer by the US to repair the base, saying the decision “fuel[ed] speculation” about “larger plans” for Ream “that involve hosting Chinese military assets,” Joseph Felter, US deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, wrote at the time.

CSIS said the boat maintenance building was taken down in stages, not just knocked down, which could support claims that the facilities were being relocated.

But claims by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s office that the buildings were being taken down for renovation were unconvincing, given that the maintenance facility was only three years old, the think tank noted.

A potential Chinese military presence at Ream — as well as at a nearby airport that a Chinese company is building — has raised concerns for US officials and other countries in the region, as it could allow China to project power over sensitive areas of Southeast Asia, such as the Malacca Strait, in ways that it couldn’t before.

The US and others have similar capabilities in the region, but the implications of the presence are still worrying, particularly for India, which has watched growing Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean warily for much of the past decade.

The Cambodian embassy and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters on the latest report, which illustrates the sort of challenges faced in the region by Democrat Joe Biden, who defeated President Donald Trump in last week’s US election.

Cambodia is one of China’s closest allies in Southeast Asia and has received billions of dollars of Chinese aid as well as political backing for Hun Sen in the face of Western criticism. US-Cambodia relations have also deteriorated

(Reporting for Reuters by David Brunnstrom; editing by Sam Holmes)

SEE ALSO: https://www.businessinsider.com/cambodia-ream-base-changes-concerns-about-china-military-presence-2020-10

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Source:: Business Insider

      

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