Satellite photos show rapid construction at military base where US has ‘serious concerns’ about China’s presence

Two new buildings appear to have been built in a matter of weeks at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, where that construction and demolition of US-funded buildings have raised concerns about a looming Chinese presence.

Satellite photos taken by Maxar and published by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative show land clearing beginning sometime after April 17, construction starting in early May, and the buildings finished by May 21.

The two buildings, both about 115 feet long and 20 feet wide, are located just north of the site of facilities built with US support that Cambodia’s government demolished late last year.

Imagery previously published by AMTI, part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, showed that one US-built building, the Tactical Headquarters of the National Committee for Maritime Security, was torn down in September.

Another US-built facility, the Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat maintenance facility and a nearby boat ramp, was torn down in October.

The ongoing demolition and construction has fed concerns about a secret deal purportedly signed by Cambodia and China in 2019 that would allow Beijing to station military personnel, store weapons, and dock warships at Ream for decades. The deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Cambodian officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power since 1985, have repeatedly denied such a deal exists.

In October, Vice Adm. Vann Bunlieng, deputy commander and chief of Cambodia’s navy general staff, said a China-backed expansion at Ream was underway, with plans including dredging to deepen the waters around the base, which currently can only host smaller ships, such as patrol boats.

“The Chinese government helps us to build a port and repair facility for our ships,” Bunlieng told Nikkei Asia, again denying reports that China’s military would use the base.

Cambodian officials have said the tactical headquarters was being relocated in part so it can expand, but the island it is now on is “tiny,” according to ATMI.

Cambodia’s defense minister also said in October that the…

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