Saudi Arabia is actively pursuing the manufacture of ballistic missiles with help from China, CNN reported Thursday.
US intelligence agencies said satellite images prove the Saudis branched out to building rather than buying weapons from China.
The worry is that the initiative could cause Iran, the arch rival of Saudi Arabia, to refuse pressure to stop pursuing its nuclear and missile programs -- an initiative backed by the US, EU, Israel and other countries in the Middle East.
Satellite images purportedly show the Saudi missile manufacturing facility and test site.
The question is how Iran will react.
"The domestic production of ballistic missiles by Saudi Arabia suggests that any diplomatic effort to control missile proliferation would need to involve other regional actors, like Saudi Arabia and Israel, that produce their own ballistic missiles," Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on weapons who is a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told CNN.
The Saudi missile program with Chinese technical aid could also affect US President Joe Biden administration’s efforts to thaw relations with Beijing.
If operational, the suspected factory near the missile base in al-Watah, southwest of Riyadh, would allow Saudi Arabia to manufacture its own ballistic missiles, fuelling fears of an arms race against its regional rival Iran.https://t.co/EL04q50Lqv— Toronto Star (@TorontoStar) January 24, 2019
In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry shrugged off the development.
"Such cooperation does not violate any international law and does not involve the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," the representative said in a statement.
The US has been aware of the Saudi missile program dating to the administration of former President Donald Trump.
Under Trump, the US let the matter go, thereby providing tacit approval to the Saudis.
"Normally, the U.S. would have pressured Saudi Arabia not to pursue these capabilities, but the first indicators that the Saudis were pursuing these capabilities indigenously emerged during the Trump era. The Trump administration, to put it lightly, was not interested in bearing down on Riyadh over these issues," according to Ankit Panda, a nuclear policy and weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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