A deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces over the weekend met with a top US Navy official and reiterated that the Kingdom will not allow any foreign military presence on its soil.
General Ith Sarath was in Thailand to attend the 2019 Indo Pacific Chiefs of Defence Conference in Bangkok and on the sidelines met with Admiral Phil Davidson, commander of the US’ Indo-Pacific command.
Upon his return to the Kingdom yesterday, Gen Sarath said he discussed US concerns regarding rumours of a Chinese military presence at the Ream Naval Base in Preah Sihanouk province.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cambodia signed a secret agreement with China to allow the latter to use the base. It said the agreement was signed earlier this year, but was not disclosed by either side.
Gen Sarath said he assured Adm Davidson that Cambodia does not have a secret agreement with China.
“The report about Cambodia signing a secret agreement to grant China exclusive use of the Ream Naval Base was fake news,” Gen Sarath said. “My explanation was applauded by Commander Davidson, as well as British and Australian commanders.”
“Commander Davidson said he welcomed Cambodia’s denial of the report and he was happy to hear it directly from us,” he added. “I also addressed a couple of his concerns.”
Gen Sarath said during his time in Thailand, he also discussed joint military exercises with senior US military officials.
He said he told the US officials that Cambodia has always welcomed joint military exercises with its foreign allies because it strengthens the capabilities of the armed forces, especially in combatting and preventing terrorism.
However, he said Cambodia is not capable of paying the expenses. Any country that desires to hold a joint military exercise must cover all costs, including costs for ammunition.