Alwaght- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to conduct its first aerial military drills with China next month in the Chinese Xinjiang region, singling that the Arab country is distancing itself from Washington in pursuit of multilateralism.
Announcing the development on Monday, China’s Defense Ministry said the upcoming joint Air Force training exercises, named Falcon Shield-2023, is part of an annual deal reached between Beijing and Abu Dhabi aimed at deepening cooperation between Chinese and UAE militaries as well as “enhancing mutual understanding and trust.”
The announcement comes as Beijing has signed a “historic deal” with the oil-rich Persian Gulf kingdom to export China-developed L-15 advanced trainer jets.
China’s aviation industry announced the agreement back in February, a year after the UAE Defense Ministry first said that it wanted to sign a contract with China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) to procure the L-15 training and light combat aircraft.
The L-15 is a two-seat, twin-engine supersonic platform built to address the demand for training pilots. The aircraft reportedly provides increased pilot safety while cutting training expenses compared to competitors.
A model of the L-15 aircraft with aerial refueling capabilities is currently on display at the IDEX 2023 defense expo in Abu Dhabi.
The purchase of the L-15 also comes as the UAE, which had exclusively relied on the US and Western Europe to purchase huge amounts of military hardware, is adopting a visible policy shift aimed at diversifying its options.
Back in June, UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the country has withdrawn from a US-led maritime coalition after an extensive evaluation of its security needs.
“As a result of our ongoing evaluation of effective security cooperation with all partners, two months ago, the UAE withdrew its participation in the Combined Maritime Forces,” it said in a statement.
The UAE also said it was committed to dialogue and diplomatic engagement to advance regional security and stability as well as ensuring navigation safety near its shores in accordance with international law.
The decision marks a pivotal moment in the region’s geopolitical landscape, altering the dynamics of international cooperation in maritime security.
The so-called Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) was formed in 2019 under the leadership of the US after a series of incidents in regional waters, far away from the US territorial waters.
The group comprises 34 countries, headquartered in the US naval base in Bahrain, and claims to be active in “security, counter-terrorism and counter-piracy” in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
The region is home to some of the most important shipping routes in the world, and since 2019, has seen oil tankers being regularly attacked or seized.
The UAE with its strategic position along vital maritime trade routes had been an active participant in the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq to purportedly combat the ISIS terrorist group, which is widely reported to have been trained, supplied, and financed by the US and its regional client states, including the UAE.
The reason behind UAE’s sudden withdrawal and getting closer to regional countries is regarded by regional observers as an outcome of changing power dynamics and the persisting decline of US clout in West Asia amid Iran's growing defense might and assertiveness in the region.