We need to protect our nation, territory and sovereignty,’ Cambodian defense minister tells visiting Japanese counterpart.
Japan on Tuesday expressed concerns over the modernization of a naval base in Cambodia with Chinese aid, according to media reports.
In a meeting on Tuesday, visiting Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi asked his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh to “explain the rationale behind modernizing the Ream Naval Base,” Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported.
Banh responded that the modernization of the base, located in the south of the country, will “enable ships from Japan and elsewhere to easily dock and have vessels repaired.”
“Cambodia has to send vessels in need of repairs overseas,” the minister added.
The western countries, led by the US, alleged that the Ream Naval base is being prepared for the deployment of the Chinese military.
Both Beijing and Phnom Penh have rejected the allegations.
Early this week, officials from China and Cambodia broke the ground to upgrade the naval base. Beijing is funding the latest work on the base mired in controversy.
Ream Naval base is located on the Gulf of Thailand, not far from the South China Sea, and has been a source of geopolitical tension.
“We need to upgrade our base to protect our nation, territory, and sovereignty,” Banh said.
“Japan will not tolerate any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force” in the region, Kishi told Banh.
Cambodia is set to host an in-person meeting among defense ministers of Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.