Is China using nuclear weapons program aid to win US allies in Middle East? Mike Pompeo says yes
The secretary of state reportedly said in an interview that Beijing was trying to make financial gains as well as security alliances at America's expense
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has supported the speculation that China is using nuclear weapons program assistance to lure US' allies in the Middle East to tilt in its favor. When asked about Beijing’s plan during an interview with the Washington Examiner during this week, he said: “I’m sure that they are. Certainly, when it comes to missile systems, we’ve seen that.”
Pompeo has been one of the most vocal critics of China in the administration of President Donald Trump who has condemned the Asian power time and again over several issues, ranging from coronavirus pandemic origin to muscle-flexing with Hong Kong, Taiwan and India. The US also shut down a Chinese consulate in Houston on charges of spying.
As per a report in the Wall Street Journal, China reportedly has helped Saudi Arabia in building a facility where yellowcakes can be processed, making arms control experts suspicious that Riyadh could partner with Beijing to develop its own nuclear program. The suspicion became stronger during a wide-ranging Senate hearing on America’s policy in the Middle-East where Washington’s discomfort about whether Riyadh’s security plans could benefit China was evident.
Pompeo though did not remark explicitly on the yellowcake report but he admitted in the interview that China is offering missile capabilities not only to make financial gains but also put in place new alliances at the expense of the US. “They're developing this technology, and they are actively soliciting in the market all across the world. There's no doubt that they're using that both for economic benefit, but to create security alliances as well,” the secretary of state told the Washington Examiner.
“It's why [we’re doing] what we're doing in the Middle East with the Abraham Accords and the coalition that we're building out and continuing to make sure that America is investing in those places and that the West is connected to the Middle East. This will create the option set, so that these countries know that they can rely on its good friend and partner in the United States [and] don't have to turn to China for their security,” he added.
Saudi Arabia is the US’s time-tested ally in the Middle East and at a time when the Trump administration is trying to forge a peace arrangement in the region by facilitating conciliation between Israel and other Arab states like the UAE and Bahrain, such revelations are bound to make Washington’s officials and lawmakers anxious.
'American people must know if China is helping Saudi'
“May I ask our witnesses about Saudi Arabia and its efforts to develop its own indigenous nuclear material program and to have a missile program, as well, which would be an enormously destabilizing element into the Middle East,” Massachusetts’s Democratic Senator Ed Markey asked state department representatives during a foreign relations committee hearing. “If China is helping Saudi Arabia right now, the American people have a right to know that, especially a month before a presidential election,” he said.
Sources in the US intelligence community and homeland security department have already confirmed that countries like Russia, China and Iran are trying to influence the November 3 election in the US, though with different aims. The suspicion over a China-Saudi nexus will make things more compound.
David Hale, state department under secretary for political affairs, said whatever information he received in the matter was classified. “The most effective means to prevent this kind of proliferation and destabilizing activity would be to make sure that we're addressing the threats that Saudi Arabia faces and providing it with the means of self-defense,” he said, according to the Examiner report.
'Why does an oil-rich country needs Nuclear power?'
Saudi’s interest in building a civilian nuclear reactor is not new though observers in the US always feel skeptical when oil-rich nations look for nuclear energy. “A country that has huge oil and natural gas reserves and is seeking nuclear power, for what? Not because it needs it for domestic energy, but for its design for nuclear weapons,” New Jersey’s Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said during the hearing.
The discussion also brought the focus back on Trump’s controversial move of withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 in 2018. Democratic lawmakers alleged that by pulling out of the multilateral deal, the Trump administration not only loosened the constraints that Iran faced while pursuing a nuclear program but also incentivized Saudi, Tehran’s No.1 enemy in the region, to do the same. Trump’s officials, on the other hand, defended the withdrawal act saying by renewing sanctions on Iran, Washington moved towards making a more strong curb on Iran’s program.