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Why have two Chinese Type 056A corvettes been stationed in Cambodia for several months?.

According to information published by 军武次位面 on May 13, 2024, two Chinese Type 056A corvettes have been stationed at Cambodia's Ream Naval Base for several months.
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Chinese PLA Navy Type 056A corvette Yongzhou. (Picture source: China MoD)

The stationing of two Chinese Type 056A corvettes at Cambodia's Ream Naval Base for several months has raised significant geopolitical concerns and speculation. The corvettes, identified as part of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), have been docked at the newly constructed pier at Ream since early December 2023. This new pier, funded by China, is part of extensive upgrades to the naval base, enabling it to accommodate larger vessels.

The prolonged presence of these ships has been interpreted as an indicator of exclusive Chinese military access to the base, despite Cambodian denials of any secret agreements with China. This extended and exclusive access is concerning to the United States and other regional observers who fear it may signify a permanent Chinese military foothold in Southeast Asia, contradicting previous Cambodian assertions that the base would be open to navies from all nations.

Satellite imagery has shown that these Chinese corvettes have been present at the pier for 93% of the time since their arrival, with minimal other naval activity at the new facility. This observation further fuels suspicions about the true nature of China's presence at Ream, especially given the historical context of U.S. and Australian-funded facilities being dismantled in favor of Chinese-funded upgrades.

The strategic implications of this development are significant. The Type 056A corvettes are advanced vessels equipped for anti-submarine warfare, suggesting that China's interests in the region may extend to asserting control over vital sea lanes and enhancing its surveillance capabilities. The presence of these warships aligns with broader Chinese military objectives, including strengthening its maritime influence and securing strategic outposts along maritime routes.

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