Hun Sen denies claims China set up naval base in Cambodia

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 29, 2019. Photo: AFP/Madoka Ikegami/Pool. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PHNOM PENH, Jun 4, 2020, NST. The Cambodian government has denied allegations that China has set up a naval base in Preah Sihanouk province, New Straits Times reported.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government would not allow any foreign military base on its territory, but welcomed any country to conduct joint land or sea military drills with Cambodia. Allegations that there is a Chinese naval base within the Ream Naval Base in the province was an issue previously raised by United States diplomats.

Hun Sen said Cambodia welcomed holding joint military exercises with the US, France, Canada, India, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia.

“The Ream Naval Base welcomes ships from any country to dock and we also welcome any country to conduct a joint military exercise with us, not only with China. If the US is willing do so, please come.”

According to the Khmer Times, Cambodia suspended military drills with the US since 2017 and counter-terrorism exercises with Australia, but keeps holding the annual “Golden Dragon” military exercise with China, during which heavy weapons are used.

“They accuse Cambodia of allowing the military seaport to be used by China exclusively … if so, it is against the constitution,” Hun Sen said.

The allegation was first made by The Wall Street Journal in July, which had published a report saying that a secret deal had been struck between the two nations for China to use the base, an allegation denied by Cambodia and China.

Political analyst Em Sovannara said the alleged Chinese military base in Cambodia was sensitive for the US and some Asean members, including Vietnam, which has a dispute with China over the South China Sea.

He said to clear the speculation from foreign diplomats or foreign journalists, the government should invite them to visit the area.

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