Bangkok (FN), Aug. 2 – The United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on Thursday, welcomed Cambodia’s denial of reports that the kingdom prepared to allow Chinese troops to use a Cambodian naval base, according to Los Angeles Times’ report published on 2 August 2019.
"I would like to clarify some of the things that happened at the US-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. Cambodia has denied reports that it has allowed a Chinese military base on its territory. The United States welcomes Cambodia's strong defense of territorial integrity and encourages other countries in the region to follow Cambodia's example,” VOA quoted Michael Pompeo.
Pompeo’s statement was made amid Cambodia-China’s strong reactions to fabricated reports published and spread by the Wall Street Journal and VOA respectively, baselessly accusing the kingdom of signing secret deal with China over the use of military base at the kingdom’s coastal province.
“China has signed an agreement with Cambodia granting its military exclusive use of part of the Ream naval base near Sihanoukville,” according to WSJ’s article on 21 July 2019.
“Some details of the final deal were unclear, the officials said, but an early draft, seen by US officials, would allow China to use the base for 30 years, with automatic renewals every 10 years after that. China would be able to post military personnel, store weapons and berth warships, according to the draft,” it added.
In response to such fake news and fabricated reports, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced through Fresh News on 22 July 2019 that the report on “Cambodia-China signing deal to use military base in the kingdom” is the worst form of fabricated news against Cambodia.
A Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Wu Qian also denounced a fake news published by the Wall Street Journal.
“It is a fake news and fabricated reports. China and Cambodia only have cooperation on military trainings and logistic supports and that such bilateral cooperation does not target any third country,” Wu Qian addressed to the press on 24 July 2019.
Defense spokesperson Chhum Socheat led a big group of 73 journalists to conduct fact-finding mission to the kingdom’s Ream Naval Base on 26 July 2019.
Besides Fresh News, there are representatives of AP, Reuters, Kyodo News, VOA, Cambodia China Times, AFP, Xinhua, Cambodia China Friendship Radio, and Japanese TV.
Media representatives confirmed shortly after visit that there is no presences of Chinese armed forces at Ream Naval Base.
“What the western media published was politically motivated and a falsified truth about Cambodia,” they said.
Answering a question from Fresh News reporter whether China needs to setup military base in the kingdom, Cambodian veteran journalist Puy Kea stated that, “China does not need Cambodia’s military base. It is a very small waterway here at Ream of Cambodia and that the water is too shallow for the Chinese navy to navigate,” he added.
Ouk Seyha, commander of Ream Naval Base, said the coast of Ream Naval Base is just more than one kilometer and the water is between six and seven meters deep.