In terms of Saudi-Chinese relations, Washington has three main demands, according to the Wall Street Journal:

“assurances that Riyadh will use U.S. dollars, not Chinese currency, to price oil sales”,

“assurances from Saudi Arabia that it won’t allow China to build military bases in the kingdom”, and

“limitations on Saudi Arabia using technology developed by China’s Huawei”.


The U.S. allegedly asked Saudi Arabia to not let China install military bases within its borders, I was reading that and I was wondering if there are any legally binding agreement between the United States and another country that doesn't allow it to let China build a military bases within it. I couldn't find anything of the sort.

  • Not my DV, but note that "assurances" generally means less than a legally binding (i.e. just politically binding) commitment. Although in the case of a theoretically absolute monarchy like Saudi Arabia, that may a bit more murky to tell apart. Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 14:51
  • See e.g. the assurances that Maldives provided to India in that regard (some years ago) voanews.com/a/maldives-says-no-to-chinese-bases/2910908.html Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 15:57
  • OTOH, when it comes to dual-use naval facilities, one can issue vaguely plausible denials while building them nonetheless (as is the case with Cambodia) voanews.com/a/… Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 16:03
  • One thing to keep in mind is that Saudi, IIRC, had some issues with the original US bases, back in 1991. That was one of the causes for the Bin Laden fatwa, unbelievers despoiling the Holy Land and all that. Things have changed since then, but Chinese bases might run into domestic political/religious opposition. Maybe, maybe not. Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 22:44

1 Answer 1


Yes, the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) between the United States and the Pacific island nations of Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

Under them, these countries outsource their defense to the United States, who has the responsibility to defend them. In return, the US can freely move troops through their borders, set up military bases and exclude other militaries from entering. The particular passages read:

The Government of the United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense matters in or relating to the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

This authority and responsibility includes:

  • the obligation to defend the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia and their peoples from attack or threats thereof as the United States and its citizens are defended;

  • the option to foreclose access to or use of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia by military personnel or for the military purposes of any third country; and

  • the option to establish and use military areas and facilities in the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, subject to the terms of the separate agreements referred to in Sections 321 and 323.

The Government of the United States confirms that it shall act in accordance with the principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations in the exercise of this authority and responsibility.

Section 231 of the Compact of Free Association with Micronesia and the Marshall Islands


The territorial jurisdiction of the Republic of Palau shall be completely foreclosed to the military forces and personnel or for the military purposes of any nation except the United States of America, and as provided for in Section 312.

Section 231 of the Compact of Free Association with Palau

Like most treaties, these treaties are not binding forever and could be terminated, so I strongly doubt there is a treaty that would prevent Chinese bases forever and against all opposition by the host country. But since termination of a COFA requires either US agreement or a plebiscite, it is rather difficult for these treaties in particular.

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    How is that legally binding? They can just chose to abolish that treaty and let China in.
    – Joe W
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 14:40
  • 7
    @JoeW: no international agreement is legally binding in any other sense. Westphalian sovereignty and all that. Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 14:49
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    @JonathanReez And that isn't a legally binding agreement.
    – Joe W
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 15:41
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    But as that has been noted upteen times around here, including by the comment under yours, that is precisely how treaties work. And since there is no "World Court" it will remain how treaties work, meaning that your "legal proceedings" just don't exist. Not in this case. Not in other cases either, unless someone applies force to get it. This is as "legally binding" as it gets. Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 23:06
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    Treaties as Binding International Obligation | ASIL: Contrary to Mr. Bolton's assertion, it is clear that treaties are legally binding in their internal operation. The members of the United Nations, including the United States, have said as much when they established the U.N.'s principal judicial organ, the International Court of Justice. Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 0:56

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