New Delhi: The construction of a secret Chinese military facility near a port in Abu Dhabi has been stopped after intervention from the Biden administration, a Wall Street Journal report stated Friday. According to the report, US secret agencies had found evidence of the secret construction this year, and the US government had allegedly warned the Emirati government that the presence of Chinese military in its country could threaten ties between US and UAE. The move comes amidst growing US-China rivalry in the Middle-East.
According to US officials quoted in the report, Biden had told the UAE Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, that the US feared China’s activity could have a detrimental impact on the partnership between US and UAE, to which the Prince replied that he had heard Biden “loud and clear”.
US intelligence officials had suspected Chinese activity at a site at Khalifa port, around 50 miles (80.5) kilometres away from Abu Dhabi, about a year ago. This is the same place where Chinese shipping company COSCO had built a container terminal. Satellite images had confirmed that the Chinese were building some military installations at the port, after which the Biden administration reached out to UAE, urging the country to stop the ongoing construction, WSJ reported.
The intelligence agencies had also discovered the excavation of a huge hole to accommodate a multistory building and the erection of girders, the site of which was also covered for some time to prevent any suspicion, the report stated.
The report quotes a UAE embassy spokesperson in Washington as saying that “The UAE has never had an agreement, plan, talks or intention to host a Chinese military base or outpost of any kind”.
US-China tussle in Middle East
According to the report, American and Emirati officials held numerous discussions over the matter earlier this year. The White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan and White House Coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk had also reportedly made a detailed presentation on the US intelligence findings about the concerned site during their visit to Abu Dhabi late September. McGurk also went back to Abu Dhabi to meet the crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan , the report stated.
UAE is hailed as one of US’ closest allies in the Middle East. The Biden administration has approved a $23 billion weapons sale, initiated under the Trump administration, including the F-35 aircraft, to Abu Dhabi and tagged the Middle Easter country a “major security partner”. It was also the very first Arab nation to send troops to Afghanistan following the US invasion in 2001.
However, China has also strengthened its economic ties with the UAE and has become one of the largest trading partners and consumers of oil from the Gulf region in recent years.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)