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Belt and Road

'Swallowed' by China: Cambodia's Ream base expansion raises alarm

Sihanoukville naval site underscores Beijing's growing military, business presence

Ream Naval Base is on the Gulf of Thailand, a strategic location given Beijing's claims in the South China Sea. (Photo by Tomoya Onishi)

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia -- "This area's been swallowed up by China. That, too," a shopkeeper said while pointing toward Ream Naval Base in Sihanoukville in late July.

The Cambodian city, once a sleepy beach getaway, has transformed into a bustling hub for casinos and hotels in recent years as Prime Minister Hun Sen rolls out the red carpet for Chinese investment. But China's growing clout there -- in particular, Beijing's decision to fund the expansion of the Ream base -- has caused alarm both in the U.S. and among the city's locals.

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