Saturday, October 3, 2009

Human Rights Group Accuses China Of Providing Sudan With Weapons

Defense News


Human Rights Group Accuses China Of Providing Sudan With Weapons

By Wendell Minnick

Taipei - A report issued this month by New York-based Human Rights First (HRF) accuses China of violating the United Nations arms embargo by providing Sudan with more than $55 million in small arms in an effort to protect China's oil interests.

The report, "Investing in Tragedy: China's Money, Arms and Politics in Sudan," also charges that China has provided military aircraft, hundreds of military trucks, military advisers and assistance in developing an indigenous arms manufacturing capability to the African nation.

Sudan has been involved in a civil war that has killed about 200,000 civilians over the past five years. Accusations that Sudan's government has encouraged genocide, rape and torture are only lightly addressed in the report. The U.N. Security Council arms embargo, imposed in 2004 under resolution 1556 and expanded in 2005 under resolution 1591, banned weapon sales to Sudan.

However, while other countries were "decreasing their arms sales to Khartoum, China stepped in to fill the void by providing Sudan with some 90 percent of its small arms during 2004-2006," the report states.

HRF refused to identify the authors of the report, considered a normal practice for transparency "to help ensure their safety when conducting field research," said Eric Sears, HRF program officer.

Reference notes in the 56-page document cite 2007 interviews with "confidential" former officials of a foreign intelligence service in Sudan, a former official in the government of Southern Sudan, an oil and gas executive in Southern Sudan, a source within the Southern People's Liberation Movement, a Western diplomat and an engineer with a Chinese contractor.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang denied HRF's allegations during a March 19 news conference. "The Chinese government has always adopted a prudent attitude on arms export, strictly abiding by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council," Qin said. "China has never exported weapons to states or regions under arms embargo of the Security Council. The conventional weapons exported from China to Sudan are very limited in number, only a small portion of Sudan's military import. The report by the organization is groundless and out of ulterior motives."

Ambassador Liu Guijin, China's Special Representative on the Darfur Issue, acknowledged the arms sales during a March 7 news conference.

"First, China is one of the suppliers of weapons to Sudan. There are at least seven countries providing Sudan with weapons, and China is not the largest supplier," he said. "Second, Sudan is the third-biggest producer of conventional weapons in Africa, only behind Egypt and South Africa, and is able to produce some arms and ammunition."

"China has launched a PR campaign, a 'charm offensive,' to convince the world it's doing everything possible to stop the violence in Darfur, but the rhetoric simply doesn't match the reality," Betsy Apple, director of the HRF Crimes Against Humanity program, said in a statement.

A fear of increased arms sales to other African countries appears unlikely, despite China's efforts to arm Sudan. Mike Hough, director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at South Africa's University of Pretoria, said that Chinese "arms sales to Africa will be limited, as most African countries have no funds to pay for arms unless these are sold or supplied on very favorable terms. Major sales reported so far were some aircraft to Zimbabwe."

Zimbabwe, under intense international pressure due to repressive government policies, has turned to China for arms. Zimbabwe can afford weapons as it has the second-richest platinum deposits in the world. However, Angola, China's biggest oil supplier, has procured no arms from Beijing.

The report says Chinese companies control "almost all the known oil potential of Sudan," making up 19 oil blocks. Sudan's military and "oil police" protect Chinese oil blocks.

China has a history of backing the Khartoum side in the civil wars between Sudan's north and south. China supplied Khartoum with 18 Shengyang F-5 (MiG-17) fighters in the 1960s and 130 tanks in the 1970s. In the '80s, the list included 20 aircraft, 50 armored personnel carriers and 50 towed artillery pieces. Six Chengdu F-7M fighters were delivered in 1997, and about 20 Nanchang A-5C Fantan fighter-bombers in 2003, and more than 200 military trucks in 2005. In 2006, China sold Sudan six K-8 Karokorum advanced trainer aircraft, and the sale of 12 Chengdu FC-1 Fierce Dragon (Xiaolong) fighters is believed to be in negotiations.

Beijing has also helped Sudan improve and expand its indigenous arms production, assisting in the establishment of "three assembly plants for small arms and ammunition ... at Kalakla, Chojeri, and Bageer," according to the HRF report. The factories make heavy and light machine guns, rocket launchers, mortars, anti-tank weapons and ammunition.

The report alleges the Giad industrial complex produces "tanks, military vehicles, and small arms," supervised by Chinese engineers.

Military-to-military relations expanded in 2005, when Chinese military officials began advising Sudan's military on improvements. China has also provided infrastructure support for Sudan, such as the building of roads, airstrips, the Kajbar and Merowe hydroelectric dams, and the Khartoum-Port Sudan Railway.

In 2002, a high-level Chinese military delegation visited Sudan's armed forces' chief of staff and defense minister. From 2003 to 2007, there were at least five high-level exchanges between Beijing and Khartoum.

"Several of these visits occurred during the period of heaviest violence in Darfur," according to the HRF report. "An October 2005 meeting between Chinese military commanders and the Sudanese minister of national defense resulted in a plan for China to improve Sudan's armed forces. More recently, [there was] an April 2007 meeting between the chief of staff of the Sudanese armed forces and the chief of general staff of China's People's Liberation Army."