Western officials, The Washington Post says, are reporting that China is taking steps to secretly build a naval base in Cambodia.
Speaking under the condition of anonymity due to the matter's sensitivity, the officials say that the base will be used exclusively by China's People's Liberation Army. The build of the Chinese base is taking place on the north side, right next to Cambodia's Ream Naval Base in the Gulf of Thailand.
"We assess," one Western official said, "that the Indo-Pacific is an important piece for China's leaders, who see the Indo-Pacific as China's rightful and historic sphere of influence. They view China's rise there as part of a global trend toward a multipolar world where major powers more forcefully assert their interests in their perceived sphere of influence."
China's only other foreign military base is a naval one in the East African country of Djibouti.
Beijing, the official added, is betting on Cambodia being "unwilling or unable to challenge China's core interests," via tactics of coercion, punishment and inducements in the diplomatic, economic and military realms. "Essentially," sources said, "China wants to become so powerful that the region will give in to China's leadership rather than face the consequences [of not doing so]."
Over the weekend, a Chinese official told the Post that "a portion of the base" will be used by "the Chinese military." But the official denied that the base was for "exclusive" military use, adding that scientists would also use it. The official also mentioned that the Chinese would not be involved in any activities on the Cambodian side of the base.
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