China and Cambodia have signed a deal granting the Chinese military use of a naval base on Cambodia’s coast. This is the latest milestone in China’s quest to become a global military power.
The agreement grants China’s People’s Liberation Army exclusive rights for 30 years to a 62-acre section of the “Ream Naval Base”, allowing it to station soldiers, weaponry and warships there.
Cambodia is expected to receive $40 million worth of weapons bought from China.
The naval base and airport add to the 20% of Cambodia’s coastline now leased to Chinese companies, and makes possible further Chinese military expansion at the expense of Cambodian citizens and sovereignty.
If you have a naval base in Cambodia, it means the Chinese Navy has a more favorable operational environment in the waters surrounding Southeast Asia … You have all of a sudden a mainland Southeast Asia potentially sitting behind a defensive Chinese military perimeter. This is by far the biggest implication.
Vietnam would certainly feel the pressure. “Ream” is about 100 kilometres from the Vietnam–Cambodia border, and Chinese warships could operate south of Vietnam before turning northeast to support Chinese activities along the Vietnamese coast in the disputed Spratly and Paracel island chains.
A Chinese military base in Cambodia could also give China a greater ability to choke off maritime trade flows in any future blockade of Taiwan as a prelude to a Chinese invasion in coming years. Conversely, it would increase China’s chances of breaking a US-imposed distant blockade in such a scenario, denying the US and its allies—including Australia—an ability to operate unmolested across maritime Southeast Asia.