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Buildup resumed at suspected Chinese military site in UAE, leak says

The Washington Post has reported that China is building a military base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to leaked classified documents. The documents show that the UAE has allowed China to build a logistics storage site, while Chinese military personnel have been spotted at two UAE military bases, where the UAE operates drones and ballistic missile defence systems. US officials are concerned that a Chinese base in the UAE could jeopardise sensitive US military activities in the Middle East. In December 2021, the UAE announced that it had halted Chinese construction at the Khalifa Port after US officials argued that Beijing intended to use it for military purposes. The documents reveal that the PLA facility is part of Beijing’s plan to establish a military base in the UAE. The UAE is a close partner of the US, and the US government is assessing the damage from the leaks.

The leaked documents show that China is expanding its foothold in ports around the world, including those in Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, and Angola. The Chinese Maritime Silk Road network includes more than 100 strategically located commercial ports and terminals. The documents show that China’s expanding economic ties have given it an opportunity to establish a military foothold in new regions. Currently, Djibouti is the only overseas location where China has an acknowledged base, officially opened in 2017 by the PLA Navy. China has also secretly planned to build a facility for exclusive PLA use at a naval base in Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand. Elsewhere, a Chinese working group had plans to visit both Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in February to assist with preparations to build a joint training centre.

The UAE is the third-largest purchaser of US weapons in the world. Its armed forces have fought alongside US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The country also hosts 5,000 US military personnel at al-Dhafra and US warships at the Jebel Ali deep-water port. The UAE began exploring other security partners after what the nation saw as America’s slow response to missile attacks against Abu Dhabi by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The UAE was part of the Saudi-backed coalition that waged a fierce air campaign against Houthi militants for years. However, two senior officials said they doubted the UAE would go too far in jeopardising its security relationship with the United States, even if it prefers China’s agnostic stance on human rights and democracy.

The leaked documents reveal profound concerns about the war in Ukraine’s trajectory and Kyiv’s capacity to wage a successful offensive against Russian forces. The documents include summaries of human intelligence on high-level conversations between world leaders, as well as information about advanced satellite technology the US uses to spy. They also include intelligence on both allies and adversaries, including Iran and North Korea, as well as Britain, Canada, South Korea, and Israel. The leak has far-reaching implications for the US and its allies. In addition to the Justice Department investigation, officials in several countries said they were assessing the damage from the leaks.

US officials insist they will not allow a Chinese base to become operational in the UAE, saying that such a facility would jeopardise sensitive US military activities in the Middle East. US officials are particularly focused on the Khalifa Port, about 50 miles north of the capital, where a Chinese shipping conglomerate operates. In some parts of the world, such as Europe, it is unlikely port facilities would ever be turned to military use because the host countries would never agree. But China’s Maritime Silk Road network offers other advantages. Chinese stakes in at least a dozen European ports give Beijing a level of control over supply routes that would make it difficult for Europe to impose serious sanctions on China should they become necessary and could enable Beijing to disrupt or divert Western supply routes in the event of a confrontation.

Source: The Washington Post

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Charles Renard

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