WASHINGTON – The United Arab Emirates recently ordered work on a Chinese facility in the country to be halted after U.S. officials said Beijing intended to use the site for military purposes, a senior official said on Thursday. of the United Arab Emirates.
Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, said the Emirates had ordered work on the site to stop at Washington’s request. The United Arab Emirates, he said, did not believe the facility was intended for military or security purposes.
“We have stopped work on the facilities,” Gargash said. “But our position remains the same, that the installations were not military installations.” He did not specify what the UAE believed the facilities should be used for.
“You hear your ally’s concerns and it would be foolish” to ignore them, he said of the Biden administration.
Mr Gargash’s remarks at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, a think tank, appear to be the first public remarks by a UAE official on the issue.
Pressure from the Biden administration to persuade the Emirates to stop building the base reflects the challenges it faces in trying to compete with Beijing on a global scale.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that U.S. intelligence agencies this spring discovered Chinese construction at a port near the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, where Chinese shipping conglomerate giant Cosco operates a container terminal. commercial.
The discovery rocked relations between the Biden administration and the United Arab Emirates, one of Washington’s main allies in the Gulf, and led to a series of high-level meetings and intelligence-sharing between the two countries. At the request of the United States, construction at the site was recently halted, the Journal reported.
Officials in the United States and the United Arab Emirates have not disclosed the precise nature of the facility under construction.
Gargash, speaking from Abu Dhabi, said his country’s dialogue with the United States on the issue had been “fairly frank.”
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to previous requests for comment on the matter.
Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East, speaking at the same forum on Thursday, did not specifically address the UAE controversy. But Mr McGurk said that with regard to China, “We have made it very clear the types of activities that would jeopardize our ability to do the things our partners want,” referring to arms sales and technology transfer to regional allies of the United States.
“The Chinese will sometimes say hello, we’re doing ‘A’, we want to help build a port, when in fact they’re doing something very different,” McGurk said. “And there’s been a bit of awareness of what I’m thinking all over the world, including the Middle East region.”
The UAE is a close partner with the United States on counterterrorism and other issues, and is a major participant in the Abrahamic Accords, under which it established full diplomatic relations with Israel. But signs of its nascent security cooperation with China have complicated the planned $ 23 billion sale of no less than 50 U.S. fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets, 18 Reaper drones and other advanced munitions.
Gargash said the UAE was extremely concerned about being caught in the midst of a rivalry between China, one of its major trading partners, and the United States in the Middle East. There is a “fine line” between competition on the one hand and a new cold war on the other, he said, adding that the Emirates did not want the rivalry to “slide into a second cold war” .
—Gordon Lubold contributed to this article.
Write to Warren P. Strobel at Warren.Strobel@wsj.com
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