Officials say construction halts secret project at Chinese port in UAE after pressure from US

The port project has been the focus of a spate of diplomatic interventions in recent months by senior US officials and prominent lawmakers on Capitol Hill and is likely to jeopardize the sale of goods. American advanced jet fighters and other advanced weapons for UAE.

“The last time we checked, we successfully persuaded the Emirate to shut down the project,” said a source familiar with the matter. “But it’s still a direct matter.”

The Wall Street Journal first report that construction of the facility has been halted.

American officials for at least a year have been closely monitoring the construction of what they believe is a military facility inside the commercial port of Khalifa, about 50 miles from the UAE capital. The United States considers the UAE an important partner in counter-terrorism efforts in the region and has thousands of troops stationed at a Saudi Arabian airbase 20 kilometers from Abu Dhabi.

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Although China – and the UAE – describe the port joint venture as purely commercial, US intelligence has observed ships disguised as commercial vessels that officials recognize are the type commonly used by the Chinese military. used to gather intelligence signals into the port, according to two sources. familiar with intelligence.

Officials remain divided over the extent to which the UAE is aware of China’s intentions. A spokesman for the UAE Embassy in Washington said in a statement that the UAE “never had an agreement, plan, negotiation or intention to host a Chinese military base or outpost under the any form.”

The US National Security Council declined to comment. The Chinese embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

China is developing ports around the world

China has sought to develop commercial ports in outposts around the world, in what US officials see as an apparent attempt to develop a foothold for military access. China has developed commercial ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and built the first overseas ports military base in Djibouti in 2017.

Both the Trump administration and the Biden administration have sought to pressure the UAE to halt the project at the port run by a Chinese shipping consortium.

Senior US lawmakers also mentioned the port project with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, during a visit to the region in June. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a tweet that he discussed “our common concerns regarding the military activities of the United States.” China in the Middle East” with bin Zayed.

Although construction on clandestine developments inside the port appears to have been halted, current and former officials argue that a broader Chinese presence in the country could still pose a threat. plans to sell F-35 jets, Reaper drones and other advanced weapons, two sources familiar with the matter explained.

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“The F-35 is our crown jewel. We need to be able to protect the technology and security of all our partners,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mira Resnick told CNN earlier this week. “Those are the conversations we’re having with Emiratis about the options they can make now, to make sure they can be part of the F-35 program.”

Still, the Biden administration’s ability to block construction of the facility represents an important diplomatic victory in its efforts to compete with China on the international stage, current and former officials said. They point to the leverage created by both the negotiations on the F-35 – which can now be easily moved forward – and the signing of the Abrahamic Agreement, which has normalized relations between Israel and several regional states. Gulf, including the UAE, under President Donald Trump.

“I am delighted with this development today,” Inhofe wrote. “I look forward to ensuring that admin Biden continues productive conversations with our Emirati friends about advancing the sale of the F-35, which will build a lasting relationship of we.”

On Tuesday, Resnick told reporters at a news conference that the United States remained “the partner of choice for all of our allies in the region.”

“No strategic competitor can, they are not capable or willing to deliver what the United States has to offer. So our partners and allies are well aware of that and that is it. why they always choose the United States,” she said.


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