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Pentagon: China 'significantly' increased engagement with Middle East in 2021

A view of Pentagon logo in Pentagon Arlington-Virginia, United States on November 03, 2021 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]
A view of Pentagon logo in Pentagon Arlington-Virginia, United States on November 03, 2021 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

China has "significantly" increased efforts to engage with countries in the Middle East, according to a report by the Pentagon released yesterday.

The Pentagon's annual "China Military Power" report to Congress found that Beijing and its military increased engagement with countries in the region, particularly Iraq.

"As Beijing's economic interests expand in areas like Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and the Middle East, we expect to see increased focus on expanding power projection operations globally," the report said.

The Chinese military, which has a base in Djibouti, is reportedly looking to establish additional facilities in the Middle East and North Africa. "[China] is seeking to expand its overseas logistics and basing infrastructure to allow the [army] to project and sustain military power at greater distances," the Pentagon said.

The same report also mentioned that China now has more than 400 nuclear warheads, approximately doubling its arsenal in just two years, warning that by 2035, China could potentially stockpile about 1,500 warheads.

The People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) launched approximately 135 ballistic missiles for testing and training last year, "more than the rest of the world combined, excluding ballistic missile employment in conflict zones," the report added.

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Publication of the report comes after the Pentagon's top policy official issuing a warning to Washington's partners in the Middle East on Friday over their growing ties with China which, in turn, could present a threat to US interests.

Speaking at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, Under-Secretary of Defence, Colin Kahl, said that the Biden administration is not calling on countries to not have ties with Beijing, but warned that if security relations with Beijing "crosses a certain threshold … it creates security threats for us".

"We should be clear-eyed about China's intentions in the region. They have no interest in mutually beneficial coalitions. They don't have the intent or the capability to integrate the region's security architecture. Our approach is different. We want to integrate the region while maintaining autonomy of every country," Kahl said.

"I understand the temptation to hedge," he continued, but added: "Beijing will not be able to get the region together against Iran. They are allies with Iran. They are not going to deliver security to the region."

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