According to the Wall Street Journal, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is threatening to pull out of a $23 billion contract to acquire American-made F-35 fighter jets, Reaper drones, and other sophisticated armaments.
Authorities claimed the Emirati government informed US officials that it intended to cancel the contract because Abu Dhabi believed the security conditions set forth by the US to protect the high-tech weaponry from Chinese espionage were too onerous.
“The UAE has informed the US that it will suspend discussions to acquire the F-35,” a UAE official said in a statement. “Technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and the cost/benefit analysis led to the reassessment.”
The US, on the other hand, has grown increasingly concerned about China’s influence in the UAE, and has laid down requirements to assure that the fifth-generation jet fighter and sophisticated drones are not exposed to Chinese spying.
Relations between the UAE and the US were strained last spring when US intelligence services learned that China was secretly constructing a military station near the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi. Also, the US has long been concerned about Abu Dhabi’s ties to Huawei Technologies Co., a Chinese telecoms company that supplies the country’s communications infrastructure.
The threat to terminate the contracts comes just two weeks after the Emirati government agreed to acquire 80 Rafale fighter jets and a dozen military helicopters from France.
The $23 billion arms sale, which was completed on former President Donald Trump’s last full day in office, included up to 50 F-35A fighter jets for $10.4 billion, 18 MQ-9B drones costing roughly $3 billion, and additional munitions totaling $10 billion.