The Japanese navy delegation – currently in Cambodia to observe the 30th anniversary of Japan’s first Peacekeeping Mission (PKO) to the Kingdom – has visited the Ream Naval Base on the second day of their three-day visit.
The base is currently undergoing upgrades on its capacity amid allegations of exclusive access for the Chinese military, which have been strenuously denied by government officials.
Ouk Seyha, Vice Admiral and Deputy Commander of the Royal Cambodian Navy, told local media outlet Fresh News that though the Ream Naval Base is currently undergoing works to upgrade its capacity, the activity is not meant to signal a threat to any country.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen and Minister of National Defence [Tea Banh] have often said that the development at the Ream Naval Base is to strengthen Cambodia’s defence base and is not meant to serve as a threat to any country,” Seyha was quoted as saying by Fresh News.
“Countries within and outside of the region are friends of Cambodia. Cambodia doesn’t take any country as an enemy, and this is our foreign policy.”
Ream Naval Base is currently the centre of controversy, in which Cambodia is alleged to be granting exclusive access of the base to the Chinese military – a claim that government officials have denied on numerous occasions.
The Japanese delegation, which arrived on two of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force Ships named JS Uraga and JS Hirado, had conducted a drill with their Cambodian counterparts on March 15.
The Ream Naval Base Secretariat announced on its Facebook page that 50 navy officials from the Cambodian side had participated in the drill, led by Deputy Chief of Staff Colonel Ly Vuthy. The officials practiced the use of demining devices such as Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Emergency Medical Dispatching (EMD) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) in the drill.
The Japanese delegation subsequently visited an exhibition of underwater devices and underwater demining tools on the naval base.
Seyha said he was “delighted” to welcome the Japanese delegation, noting that a total of 27 of Japan’s ships had visited the naval base thus far, which has “boosted friendship, solidarity, and good cooperation between the armies of Japan and Cambodia”.
During welcoming remarks in Sihanoukville on March 15, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Japan has played an “important role” on the international stage with their peacekeeping mission.
“The [Japan] PKO to Cambodia in the past had not only helped secure peace for Cambodia but also helped promote development for the country,” he said in a Facebook post.
The premier added that he was “proud” of Japan’s PKO in Cambodia and encouraged the operation to continue “to sustain the region’s peace, safety, and respect for the law.”