Construction stopped on a secret project at the Chinese port in the UAE after pressure from the United States, authorities say

The port project has been the focus of a series of diplomatic engagements in recent months by top American officials and prominent lawmakers on Capitol Hill and has potentially jeopardized the sale of advanced American fighter jets and other advanced munitions to the US. United Arab Emirates.

“The last time we checked, we had successfully convinced the Emiratis to shut down the project,” said a source familiar with intelligence. “But it is still a live issue.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the construction of the facility had stopped.

American officials for at least a year have been closely watching the construction of what they believed to be a military installation inside the commercial port of Khalifa, some 50 miles from the UAE capital. The United States considers the United Arab Emirates a key partner in counterterrorism efforts in the region and has thousands of troops based at an Emirati airbase 20 miles outside of Abu Dhabi.

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Although China, and the United Arab Emirates, described the port company as purely commercial, U.S. intelligence has observed ships disguised as commercial ships that officials recognized as a type that the Chinese military typically uses to collect intelligence signals that enter the port, according to two sources. familiar with intelligence.

Officials remain divided on how much the UAE knew about China’s intentions. A spokesman for the UAE Embassy in Washington said in a statement that the UAE “never had an agreement, plan, talks or intention to host a Chinese military base or outpost of any kind.”

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

China develops ports around the world

China has sought to develop commercial ports into outposts around the world in what US officials see as a clear effort to develop a foothold for military access. China has developed commercial ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and built its first ports abroad. military base in Djibouti in 2017.

Both the Trump administration and the Biden administration have tried to pressure the UAE to halt the project at the port, which is run by a Chinese shipping conglomerate.

Senior US lawmakers also discussed the port project with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the 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 had discussed “our mutual concern regarding Chinese military activities in the Middle East” with bin Zayed.

Even though construction of the secret development within the port has apparently been halted, current and former officials say the broader Chinese presence in the country may still jeopardize the planned sale of F-35 jets, Reaper drones. and other advanced ammunition for 23,000 million dollars. sources familiar with the matter explained.

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“The F-35 is our jewel in the crown. 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 that we are having with the Emiratis about what kind of elections they can do now, to make sure they can be part of the F-35 program.”

Still, the fact that the Biden administration was able to stop construction of the facility represents a key diplomatic victory in its efforts to compete with China on the international stage, current and former officials say. They point to the leverage created by both negotiations on the F-35, which can now move slowly, and the signing of the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and some Gulf nations, including the United Arab Emirates, under President Donald. Trump.

“I am delighted with this development today,” Inhofe wrote. “I look forward to ensuring that the Biden manager continues productive conversations with our Emirati friends on advancing the sale of the F-35, which would build our long-term relationship.”

On Tuesday, Resnick told reporters at a briefing that the United States remains the “preferred partner of all our allies in the region.”

“None of the strategic competitors is capable, unable or unwilling to offer what the United States offers. So our partners and allies know this very well, and that is why they consistently choose the United States,” he said.

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