The U.S. Embassy in Cambodia on Tuesday hit back at Minister of Defense Tea Banh’s bid to downplay suspicions that his government plans to host Chinese military assets at a U.S.-funded naval base in Preah Sihanouk province, warning that such a move would “weaken Cambodia’s independence” and threaten ASEAN.
In a letter written to Tea Banh last month, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Joseph Felter said that Cambodia’s National Committee for Maritime Security Tactical Headquarters had requested that Washington refurbish a training facility and boat depot, built by the U.S. in 2017, when he toured the Ream Navy Base in January, according to media reports on Monday.
While funds to upgrade the facilities were approved in April, Cambodia’s Defense Ministry informed the Pentagon two months later that they were “no longer necessary,” Felter said, prompting concerns that the ministry might be planning for a Chinese presence at the base in the province, which has seen an influx of Chinese investment in recent years.
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