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US warns of China influence in Middle East

December 8, 2022 at 10:46 am

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby on November 3, 2021 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

The White House yesterday responded to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia by warning that Beijing’s attempt to spread influence worldwide is “not conducive” to international order.

Asked about Xi’s visit, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Saudi Arabia remains a crucial US ally, but he issued a warning over China.

“We are mindful of the influence that China is trying to grow around the world. The Middle East is certainly one of those regions where they want to deepen their level of influence,” he said.

“We believe that many of the things they’re trying to pursue and the manner in which they’re trying to pursue it are not conducive to preserving the international rules-based order,” he added.

“We are not asking nations to choose between the U.S. and China, but as the President has said many times we believe that in this strategic competition the U.S. is certainly well poised to lead,” Kirby said.

READ: China’s Xi arrives in Saudi on ‘epoch-making’ visit to deepen economic and strategic ties

Washington maintains commercial, diplomatic and military relations with Saudi Arabia. Relations between Washington and Riyadh deteriorated in 2018 following the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident.

Tensions re-erupted over the Saudi-led OPEC+ decision to cut production to raise oil prices; which was viewed by the Biden administration as potentially harming his Democratic Party in this year’s midterm elections.

Kirby said Saudi Arabia had been a strategic US partner for nearly 80 years, but noted that Biden has ordered a review of ties.

“Yes in the wake of the OPEC+ decision a couple of months ago we are reviewing that bilateral relationship and making sure that it best suits American national security interests. That work is ongoing,” Kirby said