After Australia’s prime minister expressed concern, China and Cambodia denied claims in a recent report about a secret naval base at Ream in the Gulf of Thailand. The announcement was however expected. Calling the report “worrying”, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had raised questions about the project and called for transparency. “We encourage Beijing to be transparent about its intentions and to ensure that its activities support regional security and stability,” Albanese said. Cambodia has also informed Australia that no foreign military will be granted “exclusive” access to the Ream base, it added.
During a call with Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn dismissed the report as “baseless accusations”, according to a statement released by Phnom Penh on Tuesday.
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The development of the base was “no secret”, a spokesperson said earlier. “Cambodia will not allow the Chinese military to use it exclusively or develop the site as a military base,” government spokesman Phay Siphan told AFP.
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The base would not be just for the navy, China said. In Beijing, Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a press briefing on Tuesday: “The transformation of the naval base of Ream is only aimed at strengthening the capabilities of the Cambodian naval forces to defend the maritime territorial sovereignty and to repress crimes at sea”. The US criticisms were “malicious conjecture to attack and smear” Cambodia, he added.
(With agency contributions)
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