Beijing is building a new dry dock to host its largest carrier

Recent satellite imagery indicates that a new dry dock, substantial enough to accommodate China’s largest aircraft carrier, is under construction at the Ream Naval Base in the South China Sea. 

Beijing is building a new dry dock to host its largest carrier
Photo credit: Daily Express

These images portray a large structure, meeting all the criteria of a dry dock, being constructed at this base situated off Sihanoukville’s coast, in Cambodia. 

Suspicion about China’s operations at the Ream Base has been rife among experts. They theorize that China is leveraging the base to enhance its submarine and warship infrastructure. 

N.I. Sutton, an analyst specializing in open-source maritime security, verifies this construction at Ream. He suggests that it supports Beijing’s plan to dock its most sizable carrier at the base upon completion. 

Despite Cambodia’s claims to utilize the base for its navy, Sutton dismisses them, pointing out that they only possess a handful of ships exceeding 50 meters in length. 

The rapport between Cambodia and China has been growing steadily of late, with Xi Jinping expressing his intentions earlier this month to work hand-in-hand with King Siamoni to robustly amplify their bilateral ties. 

Phnom Penh has confirmed the reception of funds from China to erect a new naval base, citing the importance of Ream in securing Cambodia’s defense. 

According to the Center for Global Development, Cambodia sits precariously on the brink of “debt distress” due to its overwhelming debt to China—around $3.9 billion of its total external debt of $10.2 billion. 

With an intent to solidify its military presence around the globe, China has explicitly shown interest in strategically vital areas such as the South China Sea. 

China has adamantly claimed its authority over the entirety of this key waterway, leading to discord with its smaller neighbors and drawing in the United States. 

The US and its allies are displaying their naval power and aerial supremacy to safeguard navigation and overflight rights, establish deterrence, and reassure allies like the Philippines. 

The ongoing disputes at the Second Thomas Shoal, a vast area within the Philippines’ UN-endorsed exclusive economic zone yet claimed and cordoned off by China, stir apprehensions of major armed conflict between the US and China. 

Philippine officials have maintained their stance against escalating any situation into a larger conflict. However, they refuse to back down from protecting the nation’s sovereign rights in the South China Sea.

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