Western countries 'should be scared of China' says Leoni
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This comes as Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed concern about the potential project and called for Beijing to be “transparent”.
A source told the Washington Post that a facility at Cambodia’s Ream base on the Gulf of Thailand was being built for the Chinese Navy.
However, Cambodia’s deputy PM Prak Sokhonn called out the reports as “groundless accusations” in a call with Australian foreign minister Penny Wong.
Cambodian government spokesperson Phay Siphan told Agence France-Presse: “Cambodia won’t allow the Chinese military to use it exclusively or to develop the site as its military base.”
They also said the development of Ream was “not a secret”.
A ceremony at Ream for new facilities on Wednesday will be attended by the Chinese ambassador and the Cambodian defence minister.
Australian PM Anthony Albanese has warned against the growing Chinese presence in the area and reportedly fears for Beijing’s growing influence in the Pacific, reported The Guardian.
Speaking during a diplomatic visit to Indonesia, Mr Albanese said: “We encourage Beijing to be transparent about its intent and to ensure that its activities support regional security and stability.”
He added that Phnom Penh had previously assured Canberra that no foreign military would be allowed exclusive access to the Ream base.
Cambodian PM Hun Sen has always insisted the work being carried out in Ream is nothing more than modernising the base, saying in May: “Cambodia doesn’t need the presence of a foreign military on its territory.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian also hit back at “malicious conjectures to attack and smear” their presence in Ream.
They said on Tuesday: “The transformation of Ream naval base is only to strengthen Cambodian naval forces’ capabilities to uphold maritime territorial sovereignty and crack down on sea crimes.”
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Concerns about Chinese influence in the area were inflamed in April after a leaked draft of a pact between China and the Solomon Islands showed Chinese naval deployments would be allowed to be sent to the Pacific country.
The Solomon Islands is only 2,000 km (1,200 miles) away from Australia.
There have been fears since 2019 about the Ream base, when the Wall Street Journal reported that a secret draft deal would allow warships from Beijing to dock there.
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