UAE suspends US weapons deal due to China trade row

Image copyright AFP Image caption A US-Chinese trade war and tense relations between Riyadh and Beijing are among the causes of concern in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates has cancelled a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with the US as evidence of growing impatience grows with Washington’s trade row with China.

Brigadier Saif Mohammed al-Zait, the UAE’s ambassador to China, said the one-billion-dollar deal was delayed in November because the US was trying to “confer sanctions on” Chinese companies.

He did not say whether China was the company targeted, but said it had been due to be signed in January.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called it “unfortunate” and said China had been “notified”.

Mr Shuang said China “wholeheartedly rejected” any such claims.

Longstanding concerns

Mr Zait told the South China Morning Post the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) was “sending out clear signs that there is growing frustration about Washington’s zero-sum trade war and US military advances on [its] periphery”.

He said the other issue fuelling UAE irritation was “the US plans to block Chinese foreign exchange trading within a group of countries that has become known as the ‘G5’ plus India” – a reference to Brazil, Egypt, India, Jordan and Pakistan.

The UAE has a long-standing trade and security relationship with China.

Mr Zait did not say whether Abu Dhabi was contemplating developing relations with rival China. The UAE’s ties with the US are already strained.

There is also concern in the UAE over Washington’s support for Turkey in its conflict with its Kurdish Kurdish opposition.

Countries around the Gulf have accused the US of colluding with Israel in recent weeks over its deadly attack on the Gaza Strip.

In recent weeks, the UAE and Oman have made unusually public criticism of Israeli actions against the Palestinian territories.

This kind of overtness usually only happens when the relationship is at a mature stage, says Niall Ferguson, a foreign policy expert at Harvard University.

Mr Ferguson says these concerns could explain the UAE’s high-profile criticism of US behaviour in the past few months.

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