Two Chinese warships have made a first visit to a Cambodian naval base that Washington has long feared will boost Beijing’s influence in the Gulf of Thailand. A Cambodian defence ministry official said on Thursday that Chinese-funded work to expand the Ream base, near the port city of Sihanoukville, would be “finished soon”. Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Seiha said on his Facebook page that he had visited the two ships docked at the base on Sunday “to prepare a training of our Cambodian naval fleet”. Cambodian officials refused to give any details of the vessels, the purpose of their visit or how long they were staying, but a sign on one of the gangways identified it as belonging to the Chinese navy. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: “China and Cambodia have an extremely deep friendship, and the two sides have developed richly successful cooperation in many fields.” The Vice-Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, General He Weidong, visited Phnom Penh earlier this week and met Prime Minister Hun Manet. Cambodia has long had close relations with Beijing and US officials fret that the base will boost China’s effort to buttress its international heft with a string of naval and military outposts. Satellite imagery published in July showed that a 363-metre (1,190-foot) pier had been built jutting out into the sea. Cambodian officials at the time denied the pier was intended to berth aircraft carriers.