China is Cambodia’s biggest investor and closest political partner. Beijing’s support allows Cambodia to disregard Western concerns about its poor record in human and political rights, and in turn Cambodia generally supports Beijing’s geopolitical positions on issues such as its territorial claims in the South China Sea. In recent months, the United States has expressed concern about their ties and urged Cambodia’s leaders to maintain an independent and balanced foreign policy that would be in its people’s best interests.
Cambodia’s foreign ministry said Wang’s meetings on Sunday and Monday would include discussions of trade and security as well. Wrapping up a visit to neighboring Vietnam on Saturday, Wang said China planned to donate 3 million vaccine doses to that country, which is under a lockdown to contain a COVID-19 surge. The concerns partly have focused on China’s construction of new facilities at Ream Naval Base in Cambodia and the potential for its military to have future basing rights there.
Ream faces the Gulf of Thailand that lies adjacent to the South China Sea, and holding basing rights in Cambodia would extend Beijing’s strategic military profile considerably.
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