US Intel Reportedly Claims China Was Building Secret Military Facility in UAE Port

The Biden administration was concerned and reportedly cautioned the Emirati leadership that a Chinese military presence in the country could jeopardise bilateral relations. The alleged construction was reportedly suspended after a series of talks and visits by US officials.

US intelligence agencies found out this spring that China was secretly building a military facility in a port area near the UAE capital Abu Dhabi a report by The Wall Street Journal claimed Friday.

According to sources familiar with the situation, almost a year ago, satellite footage of the port of Khalifa uncovered strange construction work within a container terminal built and run by the Chinese shipping giant COSCO.

Although the initial information was inconclusive, secret satellite footage taken in spring reportedly prompted US authorities to believe that China was constructing a military base near the port. The Biden administration was reportedly so disturbed that it initiated an intensive diplomatic campaign to persuade the Emiratis that the location served a military function and that work should be halted.

Sources reportedly claimed that the Emirati government, which hosts US military forces appeared to be uninformed of China’s alleged intentions.

“The UAE has never had an agreement, plan, talks, or intention to host a Chinese military base or outpost of any kind”, an embassy spokesman for the UAE is quoted as telling the outlet.

According to the report, it was the excavation of a large hole to fit a multistorey skyscraper and the erection of girders this spring that was discovered by US intelligence agencies among other clues. To avoid public observation, the building site was reportedly covered at one point.

The sources, however, reportedly declined to speculate about what the alleged military structure could have been used for.

US President Joe Biden purportedly spoke to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan in May and August, conveying serious concerns to the latter about the activity of the Chinese and noting that this could have negative consequences for bilateral relations.

Per the report, the Americans were perplexed by the crown prince’s response that he had heard Biden “loud and clear”.

During a subsequent visit to Abu Dhabi in late September, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and top Mideast aide Brett McGurk gave a lengthy presentation on US intelligence about the Chinese site, according to a source familiar with the situation. Mr McGurk returned to meet with the crown prince this week and US authorities recently inspected the site, according to the person, who added that officials believe construction has been halted for the time being.

Washington fears that the planned $23 billion sale of 50 US fifth-generation F-35 fighter aircraft, 18 Reaper drones, and other advanced weaponry, could be jeopardised due to embryonic security collaboration between China and the United Arab Emirates.

In 2017, China established its first military presence outside its territory in Djibouti, an East African country, to enable operations in the Indian Ocean and Africa. The country also negotiated a secret arrangement in Cambodia in 2019 to allow its military troops to utilise a naval facility. In Pakistan and Sri Lanka, China has established commercial port facilities that might allegedly be utilised by the Chinese Navy.

Moreover, China has boosted economic ties with the UAE in recent years, becoming one of its top commercial partners as well as the largest consumer of Gulf oil. The Arab nation, in turn, has adopted Huawei Technologies’ telecom infrastructure.

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