Chinese and Saudi military officials agreed during a video call on Thursday to boost ties, a move that risks angering the Biden administration, The South China Morning Post reported.
Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe spoke with Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi deputy defense minister, and said the two countries should “strengthen coordination and jointly oppose hegemonic and bullying practices,” a clear reference to the US.
Wei said the Chinese military wants to “maintain strategic communication and push forward practical cooperation” with the Saudis. Khalid agreed that Saudi Arabia and China should strengthen ties and urged cooperation “to enhance military ties to a higher level.”
The call came as the US has been warning its Middle East allies against close cooperation with Beijing. Brett McGurk, the top Middle East official on the National Security Council, said Thursday that military or technical cooperation with China would impact US partnerships in the Middle East.
“We have had a very close dialogue with friends across the region about certain activities that would jeopardize the level of American cooperation,” McGurk said. “We have had a very good dialogue, and a bit of an awakening I think from some of our partners in the Middle East region about this issue.”
The US is still by far the largest weapons supplier for Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh wouldn’t be able to continue the brutal war in Yemen without Washington’s support. But China has increased arms sales to the Saudis in recent years.
According to the Post, Chinese arms sales to Riyadh increased by 400 percent from 2016 to 2020, compared with the previous five years. In December, CNN reported that US intelligence officials concluded that China is helping Saudi Arabia build ballistic missiles.