Saudi Arabia-China
US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al SaudReuters

Tensions escalated between the United States and China following a report, which revealed that Saudi Arabia has notably escalated its ballistic missile program, with the help of China.

According to US intelligence, the latest development threatens decades of the US government efforts to limit missile proliferation in the Middle East.

Three sources who had direct intel of the matter said that the  administration did not initially disclose its knowledge of this classified development to key members of Congress, reports CNN.

The sources further said that the Democrats were "infuriated" as they obtained information regarding the matter outside of regular US government channels and concluded it had been a deliberate effort as there were a series of the briefing where they say it "should have been presented".

The classified information indicates that apart from expansion in the missile infrastructure, Saudi Arabia has also purchased technology from China.

The US had maintained its relationship with the Saudi leadership despite its role in the war in Yemen and the widely popular murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. To deter Iran's "malign influence" in the Middle East, the Trump administration had recently declared an emergency to lock a deal worth $8.1 billion with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan amid Congress's opposition to the move.

Regarding the future repercussions of such proliferation, the sources have revealed that there the missile advancement marks another step in potential Saudi efforts to "one day deliver a nuclear warhead were it ever to obtain one."

The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a 2018 interview to CBS News had stated the possibility of obtaining nuclear weapons. "Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible" he said.

According to the regulations set forth by the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime among the G7 industrialised countries to limit the risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the Saudi is barred from purchasing from the US.

Saudi's decision to go ahead with its weapons proliferation to compete with Iran's missile capability align suits China's interests since it is not signatory to the pact. The US had been at ease as it was believed that since Saudi had purchased American military aircrafts, it wouldn't go around US and purchase missile capabilities.

Saudi Arabia ranked the largest importer of arms in the world, accounting for 12 percent of the total imports from 2014-2018, according to a recently published report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

As the recent development indicate that China has overtaken the US to supply weapons to the largest arms market, the possibility of US losing its largest arms market leaves a sour taste to the US in the midst of the ongoing US-China trade war.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China and Saudi Arabia are "comprehensive strategic partners," and that both countries "maintain friendly cooperation in all areas, including in the area of arms sales. Such cooperation does not violate any international laws, nor does it involve the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."