Special to WorldTribune.com
A lease agreement allowing a Chinese company to manage an Israeli port where U.S. Navy ships dock could undermine U.S.-Israeli intelligence sharing, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned.
“Intelligence sharing might have to be reduced, co-location of security facilities might have to be reduced,” Pompeo said during a March 21 interview conducted in Jerusalem about Chinese investment. “We want to make sure that countries understand this and know these risks.”
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said he raised concerns over China’s management of Haifa port in a recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the U.S. Navy is considering changing its operations at the port once the Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) – a firm which the Chinese government has high stakes in – officially takes over Haifa’s civilian port in 2021.
SIPG runs the largest port in the world in Shanghai and was the only bidder for a 2015 Haifa port deal which granted the company control for 25 years. In return, the company committed to invest $2 billion into the project and transform the port’s bay terminal into Israel’s largest harbor.
“The Chinese port operators will be able to monitor closely U.S. ship movements, be aware of maintenance activity and could have access to equipment moving to and from repair sites and interact freely with our crews over protracted periods,” said retired admiral and ex-chief of U.S. naval operations Gary Roughead during a conference at the University of Haifa last year.
“Significantly, the information systems and new infrastructure integral to the ports and the likelihood of information and electronic surveillance systems jeopardize U.S. information and cybersecurity,” he added.
Israeli Transportation Minister Israel Katz, who helped launch the Haifa project, said “The State of Israel is dealing with all aspects connected to the establishment and management of infrastructure by foreign companies in Israel.”
According to China’s Ministry of Transport, a total of 52 ports in 34 countries are managed or were constructed by Chinese companies, and that number is set to grow as Beijing expands its program.