U.S. intelligence indicates that Saudi Arabia considerably expanded its ballistic missile program with the help of the Chinese government, CNN reported Wednesday, citing multiple sources familiar with the matter.
The classified intelligence, which was previously unreported, indicated the kingdom has made recent purchases from China that allowed it to significantly expand its missile infrastructure and technology, according to CNN.
The Trump administration did not immediately disclose the findings to key members of Congress, leading some Democrats to conclude it was deliberately omitted from classified briefings, the outlet reported.
The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill about the report.
Sources told CNN that the Saudis' end goal was not clear from the intelligence, though the outlet noted the missile development could be part of Saudi efforts toward delivering a nuclear warhead should it ever get one.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said the kingdom will work to obtain a nuclear weapon should its regional adversary Iran develop one.
“Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” he told “60 Minutes” last year.
Saudi Arabia is barred from buying ballistic missiles from the U.S. under the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, but bought them from China at least once decades ago and public reports indicated they may have made another purchase in 2007.
The U.S. has sought to dissuade Saudi Arabia from seeking missiles by ensuring it maintains its air power advantage in the region through sales of American military aircraft, CNN noted.
"Saudi Arabia needn't race Iran to produce or procure ballistic missiles. It already has a significant conventional military advantage," Behnam Taleblu of the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the network.
However, in recent months tensions have increased between the U.S. and Iran, with Tehran responding to the United States' withdrawal from the 2015 Obama-era nuclear deal by scaling back some of its own commitments.
Tensions have also flared between Congress and the Trump administration over Iran, with lawmakers furious in recent weeks over President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE's decision to circumvent lawmakers to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies.
Lawmakers voted earlier this year to block the U.S. from supporting the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Trump vetoed the measure after it passed the House and Senate, and the Senate failed to override the veto last month.