UAE threatens to pull out of $23 billion US F-35 deal over 'restrictions'

UAE threatens to pull out of $23 billion US F-35 deal over 'restrictions'
The UAE has said it wishes to scrap a multi-billion-dollar arms deal with the US over the latter's fears of Chinese espionage
2 min read
14 December, 2021
US officials have acknowledges the UAE's warning to withdraw from the agreement [Getty-file photo]

The UAE is threatening to pull out of an arms deal with the US due to a row over fears of Chinese spying, Washington officials have said.

Abu Dhabi informed US officials that it felt the security requirements laid out by Washington to safeguard the weaponry from Chinese espionage were too much, thus deciding to scrap the deal.

The $23 billion dollar deal had included F-35 jets, Reaper drones, and other munitions, and had been agreed on with former US president Donald Trump.

"The UAE has informed the US that it will suspend discussions to acquire the F-35," an Emirati official said in a statement, adding that: "Technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and the cost/benefit analysis led to the reassessment."

The official said the US remains the Gulf country’s "preferred provider for advanced defense requirements", adding that discussions for the F-35 jets "may be reopened in the future".

A US official responded, making clear that Washington remained committed to the deal.

"Frankly, we have some questions of our own. This sort of back-and-forth is not unusual for significant arms sales, and we are hopeful we can work through these issues and we think the joint military dialogue will give us an opportunity to do so," the official said.

China shares strong economic ties with the UAE and other Gulf states. Washington is wary of these relations, warning Gulf allies against boosting their security ties with Beijing.

The US reportedly intervened after a secret Chinese military base was allegedly being constructed in the UAE.

The UAE threat to pull out from the deal comes nearly a couple of weeks after the Emirati government purchased 80 Rafale jets and a dozen military helicopters from France.