China signs secret deal to use Cambodian naval base: report

China has signed a secret deal to gain exclusive rights to a Cambodian naval base, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday

Chinese and Cambodian officials denied the plans, but U.S. and allied officials familiar with the matter told the Journal the agreement was signed this spring. 

The outlet reported that an early draft seen by U.S. officials shows the agreement would grant China access to the Cambodian naval installation in the Gulf of Thailand for 30 years, with automatic renewal every 10 years after that. 

Phay Siphan, a Cambodian government spokesman, told the Journal the reported deal is “fake news.” 

“Nothing is happening like that,” he told the paper. 

At the base, which would be Beijing’s first dedicated naval staging facility in Southeast Asia, China would be able to post military personnel, store weapons and berth warships, the Journal reports. 

Emily Zeeberg, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, told the Journal that Washington “is concerned that any steps by the Cambodian government to invite a foreign military presence in Cambodia” would disturb regional peace and stability. 

According to the Journal’s report, U.S. officials are debating if Washington could persuade Phnom Penh to reverse its decision. 

The alleged agreement follows U.S. and allied counterparts lobbying Cambodia not to allow China’s military to use an airport being built at Dara Sakor by a private Chinese company with a 99-year lease on the Cambodian land, the Journal reported. 

The outlet reports that satellite images show that the airport now features two-mile-long runways fit for China’s military vehicles.  

Tags Cambodia China

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