July 22 (UPI) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen slammed a recent U.S. news report that said his government secretly agreed China could build a naval base in his country.
The Cambodian leader denied the plan and called the report false, pro-government news site Fresh News reported Monday.
"This is the worst-ever made up news against Cambodia," he said. "No such thing could happen because hosting foreign military bases is against the Cambodian constitution."
On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported China had signed a secret agreement to permit Beijing to use a Cambodian navy base.
U.S. officials who said they saw the documents, and spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Journal, said the deal gives China "exclusive rights" to a Cambodian naval base on the Gulf of Thailand.
China and Cambodia have denied the existence of the deal. A Chinese military presence in Cambodia, in addition to existing facilities in the South China Sea, could "greatly complicate" the ability of the United States to come to Taiwan's aid in the event of a Chinese attack, said Charles Edel, a former adviser to the U.S. secretary of state.
U.S. officials who saw an early version of the draft said Cambodia would allow China to use the base for 30 years, with automatic renewals every 10 years following the initial expiration date.
In Beijing, China's foreign ministry denied any secrecy and claimed cooperation between the two governments was transparent.
The naval installation at the focus of the report is in Ream, which spans 190 acres. The area includes two facilities built with U.S. funding.
U.S. officials and analysts said the United States wielded too many sticks in its relationship with Cambodia, criticizing its human rights record without offering carrots, according to the Journal.
Cambodia has also allowed a private Chinese firm to build a new airport in Dara Sakor; U.S. officials are concerned Cambodia could allow China's military to use the facilities, according to the report.