King Abdullah restored National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan to favor for a very special mission. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and intelligence sources reveal that the talented former ambassador to the US was recently brought back from exile to conduct secret negotiations with China for the oil kingdom’s acquisition of single-nuclear warhead, medium-range MRBM ballistic missiles – the Dong-Feng 21 (DF-21) model (NATO code name CSS-5).
After acting as the king’s confidential coordinator of Saudi intelligence in the Arab revolt, Bandar removed himself (or was removed) some months ago from Riyadh to escape the royal infighting plaguing the court.
Facing him across the negotiating table in Beijing was Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie who reported directly to Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The first Saudi approach for these missiles was made when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on the Saudi monarch on January 15. In their official communiqué, the two leaders announced they had "agreed to make concerted efforts to enhance bilateral relations under a strategic framework."
The phrase "under a strategic framework" referred to the Saudi request for Chinese nuclear missiles.
The Saudis keep one-third of their missiles ready for instant launch
Saudi Arabia’s present arsenal, our military sources report, contains three Chinese CSS-2 ballistic missile batteries from the 1970s (IRBM, with conventional warheads and a range of 2,600 kilometers), the oldest type of liquid propellant ballistic missiles in the Chinese inventory.
Responsible for their maintenance is a Chinese missile corps battalion composed mostly of missile technicians who are employed at three military facilities – Sulail, 500 kilometers south of Riyadh near the Khamis Mushait military complex, which is Headquarters of the Saudi Southern Area Command and home to the Field Artillery and Infantry Schools and to the King Khalid Air Base; Prince Sultan Air Base in Al Kharj, 77 kilometers south of Riyadh; and Al-Dilam, also south of Riyadh and bordering on the Sultan Air Base.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources note that the Saudis keep their ballistic missiles in three stages of readiness – those at Sulail sit on pads prepared for instantaneous launch; those at Al Kharj are also on launching pads with their tanks half full; and the third group is still in storage at Al-Dilam.
The newest updated variants of the DF-21s are capable of delivering either nuclear warheads or conventional weapons. They have a maximum range of 1,700 kilometers and a payload of 600 kg. Submunitions with high explosives and chemical warheads are believed to be available.
A colossal price payable in 23 years’ worth of oil supplies
Confident that Washington was unaware of the secret negotiations going on in Beijing, our intelligence sources report the Saudis offered the Chinese two major incentives for the deal:
1. The fabulous sum of $60 billion in payment for the purchase of the missiles. Part of the package would be the construction of new bases to house them in Saudi desert regions most inaccessible for Iranian attack.
2. Since solid investment outlets are hard to find in the global economy’s present state and Beijing suffers from a surfeit of cash, Bandar also put on the table as part of the price a long-term Saudi commitment to cover all of China’s oil needs until the year 2035, no matter what happens in the interim and irrespective even of an oil crisis besetting the desert kingdom.
Never before has any oil-producing country offered such terms – least of all the world’s largest oil exporter. In effect, Gulf sources point out, Riyadh agreed to open its oil fields to partial Chinese control for the sake of gaining nuclear missiles.
Not surprisingly, Chinese President Hu informed the Saudi King of his assent to the transaction once all the particulars are ironed out.
One of the weightiest would be the criteria to be fixed for calculating the price of oil on sale to China and the number of barrels; whether the baseline would be the 2020 or 2030 market prices.
Back-up talks for Pakistan’s Gauri nuclear missiles
Also to be decided is how China will get around its signature on the Missile Technology Control Regime, the MTCR, an informal and voluntary association of countries dedicated to the non-proliferation of unmanned systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
Another snag is presented by the commitments Riyadh undertook in signing nuclear conventions at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources report further that Saudi Arabia has launched back-up negotiations with Pakistan for the purchase of its Ghauri nuclear ballistic missiles in case the transaction with China falls through.