The Biden administration has managed to halt the construction of a secret development inside of a Chinese shipping port in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the US’s closest Mideast allies, after intense pressure from the US. This project, near Abu Dhabi, was halted after several rounds of meetings and visits by US officials, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported citing people familiar with the matter. After the intelligence agencies in Washington learned that Beijing was secretly building what they suspected was a military facility at a port, the Biden administration warned the Emirati government that a Chinese military presence in its country could threaten ties between the two countries. “Last we checked, we had successfully convinced the Emiratis to shut down the project,” said one source familiar with the intelligence, as quoted by CNN. “But it’s still a live issue.”
Although the project was portrayed as purely commercial, US intelligence has observed ships disguised as commercial vessels that officials recognized as a type typically used by the Chinese military for signals intelligence collection entering the port, the report said. In a statement, a spokesperson for the UAE Embassy in Washington said that the UAE “never had an agreement, plan, talks or intention to host a Chinese military base or outpost of any kind.”
This development comes as Beijing has sought to develop commercial ports in outposts around the world in what experts believe is a clear effort to enhance its military foothold. China has already developed commercial ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka and its first overseas military base in Djibouti. Earlier, the former Trump administration had sought to pressure the UAE to put a stop to the project at the port, which is run by a Chinese shipping conglomerate.