Home Asia Visit By Chinese Navy Ships To Cambodia Could Fuel US Concerns

Visit By Chinese Navy Ships To Cambodia Could Fuel US Concerns


China is planning to deploy two warships to Cambodia and East Timor from early May to mid-June, which may heighten US concerns about China’s increasing presence at a significant Cambodian naval base.

According to a Thursday statement from China’s defence ministry, their largest naval training ship, Qijiguang, and the massive amphibious warfare vessel, Jinggangshan, will be sent to these countries for training with local naval cadets. The purpose of this mission is to build trust and cooperation between their respective navies.

The Jinggangshan dock landing ship is capable of transporting helicopters, armoured vehicles, boats and landing craft as well as nearly 1,000 troops. Qijiguang is smaller but is China’s technologically most advanced military training vessel.

China did not say where the vessels will be based while in Cambodia and East Timor.

But the visit of the Chinese ships could further fuel U.S. concerns about the presence of Chinese warships at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, whose recent expansion has been backed by China.

Cambodia’s decision to allow China to develop Ream, located at a key waterway on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville province, has upset Washington worried that it will give Beijing a new outpost near the contested South China Sea, most of which are claimed by China.

Nitin A Gokhale WhatsApp Channel

Before a China-funded upgrade began in June 2022, Ream had been the site of some joint naval training and exercises between the United States and Cambodia. Cambodia demolished the U.S.-built facility in October 2020.

Another two Chinese warships, likely corvettes or frigates, have been docked at Ream since December. Cambodia’s defence ministry insisted on Wednesday that their presence does not constitute a permanent deployment of the Chinese military in the country.

China has been boosting its “ironclad” friendship with the Southeastern Asian country, amid high-level state and military leader exchanges since last year.

Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun in March met with Deputy Commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and Commander of the Royal Cambodian Army Mao Sophan in Beijing, with both pledging further military cooperation.

With Inputs from Reuters