‘Bad American policy’ driving Saudi Arabia closer to China: Pompeo

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the China-Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 9, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent visit to Saudi Arabia, signaling a warming of relations at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and both countries, was a result of "bad American policy."

The Chinese leader was welcomed in Saudi Arabia with pomp and glory last week-- a landmark trip that stood in sharp contrast to the lukewarm welcome US President Joe Biden received when he visited the kingdom early this year.

Speaking to “FOX News Sunday,” Pompeo blamed the flawed policy of the Biden administration for antagonizing Saudi Arabia, a traditional US ally in the Middle East, and causing it to hedge its relationship with Washington.

"When you won't be partners with your friends and your allies, and you offend them, and you simply won't do anything to push back against your adversaries, like Xi Jinping, you see exactly this kind of hedging behavior," Pompeo said.

In a jab at the administration of former President Donald Trump, who had aligned his Middle East policy closely with Saudi Arabia, Biden had promised, on the campaign trail, to treat the kingdom like a “pariah” on the international stage. Relations between the two allies deteriorated during Biden’s presidency over oil production, human rights and other issues.

While alienating Saudi Arabia, Pompeo said, the Biden administration has also gone “soft on China,” which he said the former administration had recognized as the "singular greatest external threat" to the United States.

"When you do those things, you will hurt the American people all across this country. And what you saw happen in the Kingdom this week is a direct result of bad American policy," he said.

"You've got to stick with friends, you got to stay with your partners, and you must push back against your adversaries, or your friends will begin to hedge. Right, they'll go make friendships to protect themselves if they can't count on America to be a good partner and friend around the world," the former diplomat added.

By the end of Xi’s three-day visit to Saudi Arabia on Friday, the two sides had signed more than 40 agreements, including a memorandum of understanding between Saudi Aramco and China’s Shandong Energy Group to explore ways to cooperate on oil refining and explore petrochemical opportunities in China.

According to a joint statement published by the Saudi media, Riyadh and Beijing were keen to stress “the importance of stability in the world oil markets,” noting that Saudi Arabia is a reliable exporter of crude oil to its Chinese partner.

Back in October, Biden conceded that the US needed to “rethink” its relationship with Saudi Arabia after OPEC+ slashed oil production. Biden’s repeated calls for the kingdom to increase production to stabilize the markets and lower energy prices continued to fall on deaf ears.

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