Washington suspects that Beijing helps Riyadh in its nuclear race

Washington suspects that Beijing helps Riyadh in its nuclear race
Chinese DF-3 medium-range missiles, nuclear capable, on parade in Saudi Arabia in 2014 (LV)

The Saudi Crown Prince made clear his determination to obtain the atomic weapon

The Trump Administration maintains a pulse with China on several fronts (trade, technology, human rights in Hong Kong) which has been strained by the impact of the coronavirus and its electoral use.

All that aggressiveness is missed, according to experts, in the silence that the White House maintains regarding the nuclear agreements between Beijing and Saudi Arabia, a good friend of Washington who seems to turn its back on this matter.

Arab restlessness

Saudi Arabia is concerned about Iran’s nuclear race, the other great power in the Persian Gulf

The US intelligence agencies are investigating the efforts of the Saudi authorities to produce nuclear fuel, a question that could put the Arab kingdom in the race to gain the capacity to produce atomic bombs.

According to The New York Times, spy agencies have circulated classified analysis of those secret efforts with Chinese help. In that document, there is suspicion of collaboration in the search for raw uranium, which will later allow its enrichment to be used weapons.

The report identifies a completely new installation that is now complete. Its appearance is that of a solar energy platform, located near Riyadh, the capital. But the US government analysts suspect it is one of the unrecognized nuclear structures.

Earlier this week The Wall Street Journal reported that Western experts were concerned with another facility, in the northwestern part of the desert. According to the Journal, this site is part of the program with China to extract mineral uranium and purify it, the first step to later obtain enriched uranium. Its utility can be both for civil reactors and for nuclear bombs.

The classified report highlights that these works are still at a very early stage. Should this kingdom decide to pursue a military program, it would still be a few years before it could produce nuclear warheads.

The Saudis have made no secret of their determination to keep up with Iran, their great enemy, which has accelerated its nuclear race since President Trump abandoned the 2015 international agreement with Tehran.

In 2018, Mohamed bin Salman, crown prince and strongman in Saudi Arabia, announced that his country would try to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran continued with its tasks. His words were not carried away by the wind. At that time, Senators Ed Markey (Democrat) and Marco Rubio (Republican) launched a bill whose name was a declaration of intent: “Nuclear Weapons Act for Saudi Arabia.”

This legislative text demanded the cessation of all negotiations on nuclear cooperation with the Saudis until the responsibilities for the murder Jamal Khashoggi, a US-resident journalist killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul (Turkey), were clarified.

President Trump has expressed no concern about this nuclear development. But it encounters the contradiction of reiterating that it will not allow any progress
of the Iranians while remaining silent about their allies. Donald Trump has downgraded the gravity of the Khashoggi affair while doing good conventional weapons business with that regime and has incorporated Prince Bin Salman into the failed Middle East pacification plan.

However, this report in which the close relationship between the Saudis and the Chinese is emphasized represents a change of parameters. At the Times’ request, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement indicating that he urges Saudi Arabia to sign an agreement with the United States on non-proliferation and to establish cooperation in nuclear industries between the two countries.

But the Saudis have already made it very clear before that they are not willing to accept the restrictions that the United Arab Emirates assumed when signing a pact in which they promised not to develop their capacity to produce nuclear fuel.

His refusal assumes that Riyadh would have chosen to move away from Washington and approach Beijing to build its own structure. China has never been known for requiring the signature of these non-proliferation commitments.