Saudi Arabia and China will hold their second-ever joint naval drill next month, China’s Ministry of National Defense announced on 28 September, as relations between the two countries grow closer.
The special operations training exercise will take place in the southern Chinese city of Zhanjiang at an unspecified date in October. The exercise will focus on “overseas maritime counter-terrorism operations,” including sniping, boat driving, helicopter landing, and joint rescues, the ministry said in a statement.
The training is to “deepen the pragmatic and friendly cooperation between the two militaries and improve the troops’ real-combat training level,” said Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Colonel Wu Qian.
The Saudi Ministry of Defense did not immediately comment on the announced exercise.
China and Saudi Arabia held joint naval drills for the first time in 2019 at the King Faisal Naval Base in Jeddah.
Chinese state media said the three-week joint exercise was designed to build trust between the two sides to combat maritime terrorism and piracy.
Saudi Arabia, a long-time US ally and client state, has moved to strengthen relations with China in recent months. China is now Saudi Arabia’s main purchaser of oil, and the two countries have signed numerous agreements to invest in each other’s economies.
In March, China brokered a deal for Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Iran, while the kingdom was invited to join the China and Russia-led BRICS economic bloc in August.
Saudi Arabia is at the same time seeking a defense pact with the US as one of several demands for normalizing relations with Israel. This may allow Saudi leader Mohammad bin Salman to leverage his closer ties with Beijing to achieve a better deal with the US as part of any normalization deal with Israel.
President Joe Biden has prioritized a Saudi-Israel normalization deal in advance of next year’s presidential elections. Bin Salman is also reportedly seeking access to US nuclear technology, more advanced US weapons, and the establishment of a Palestinian state in accord with the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as part of a deal.
Source : TheCradle