President Joe Biden’s administration is attempting to block China’s efforts to establish a military base in the Middle East by warning regional powers that such a partnership with Beijing would jeopardize their security relationship with the United States.
“There are certain categories of cooperation with the PRC that we cannot live with,” the State Department’s Mira Resnick, a deputy assistant secretary in the bureau of political-military affairs, told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee. “And we have made that clear.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who chaired the hearing, prompted that answer by emphasizing the paradox of Middle East governments discussing arms deals with China while “hoping to maintain [their life under] a U.S. security umbrella.” Whereas former President Donald Trump cited China’s desire to sell weapons in the region to justify U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and others, the dialogue Tuesday put a spotlight on the degree to which security ties to the U.S. could also provide Washington with leverage.
“The current assessment is that China has a global strategy of pursuing military installations all over, including in the Middle East,” the Defense Department’s Dana Stroul, the deputy assistant secretary for the Middle East, added in the conversation. "So, in any country with which we have a deep partnership, we talk about the risks — to U.S. defense technology, to U.S. forces — of a Chinese military installation.”
Those general warnings gave a sign of how Biden’s team is considering the fate of one of Trump’s final and most significant arms deals, an agreement to sell cutting-edge F-35 stealth fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates. Indiana Sen. Todd Young, the top Republican on the panel, elicited a more specific response about the Pentagon’s conversations with the UAE.
“We understand that there will be an economic or trade relationship with China, just like the United States has, but there are certain categories of activities or engagement that our partners may be considering with China that, if they do, will pose a risk to U.S. defense technology, other kinds of technology, and ultimately force protection,” Stroul said. “Force protection is the highest priority of the entire U.S. government. So we have an ongoing consultation, it is not specific to the F-35, but that is certainly part of it.”
“How problematic would it be if China were to establish a base in a country like the United Arab Emirates, that is about to get some of our most sensitive defense equipment?” Murphy asked.
Stroul emphasized instead that China’s offers of weaponry bring political downsides that American cooperation does not.
“We warn and discuss with our partners in the Middle East that ultimately Chinese engagement in certain categories or violate their sovereignty, which they prioritize,” she said. “This is not a [government in] Beijing that is going to support our partners in their legitimate security and defense concerns and needs, and we remind them of that.”
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke
Original Location: US warns Middle East allies not to give China a military base