News / Asia

China Arms Meeting With Gadhafi Officials Raises Questions

William Ide

Beijing's admission last week that Chinese defense companies met with representatives of Moammar Gadhafi as recently as July to discuss a possible arms deal has raised questions about the kind of military support China supplied Libya's former ruler.  

China denies that any contracts were signed at the July meeting in Beijing and says no weapons were exported to Libya as a result of the meeting.  It also says it was unaware at the time that the meeting had taken place.

If Chinese companies did export weapons, it would be a violation of United Nations sanctions put in place earlier this year.

Analyst Richard Fisher at the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center says he was surprised that Beijing admitted the meeting took place and that Chinese defense companies had even considered getting involved in the Libyan civil war. “We rarely, if ever, get even a partial admission of guilt from a Chinese government spokesman.  Their first rule is to deny everything and the government spokesman again, after about 24 hours of delay, initially denying, coming out and admitting that there was at least contact with Libyan government officials," he said.

Fisher says China’s admission appears to be an attempt to appeal to both sides in the Libyan conflict. “An outright denial would have simply inflamed their deteriorating position in Libya.  So they decided not to deny.  But in admitting a mistake partially, they have also opened the door to many other questions," he said.

China only recently recognized Libya’s National Transitional Council, or NTC, and the allegations about a possible arms deal to help pro-Gadhafi forces have complicated its position in the country, where it has oil and infrastructure contracts.

China’s presence in Libya was so massive that when the Libyan conflict began, Beijing dispatched a naval frigate to help some 30,000 Chinese evacuate from Libya.

Details of the July meeting surfaced recently when a reporter for the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, found documents in a Tripoli neighborhood that talked about how Chinese defense companies had tried to sell weapons and munitions to Moammar Gadhafi's forces.  The documents did not say whether the materiel was delivered.

Officials with the NTC say they were aware of China’s involvement, even before the documents surfaced and plan to take legal action.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency last week, Libya's military spokesman, Abdulrahman Busin, said the NTC has hard evidence that Moammar Gadhafi bought arms from China and countries in Eastern Europe in defiance of U.N. sanctions. "A lot of it was done through a middleman.  This subject has not just come up just now.  We have been pursuing it for some time now.  And the documents that have come up have only hardened our case that we have been building over the last few months," he said.

Busin said that according to the documents, the "middleman" was Algeria, a country with which China has close military ties.  He also said there is clear evidence that China knew the final destination for the arms was Libya.

Prior to the imposition of U.N. sanctions earlier this year, and before Libya's civil war began, Libya’s defense ministry was being courted by many countries that wanted to supply it with weapons.  More than 100 companies from at least 24 countries participated in the Libyan Defense Expo late last year.  More than half of those companies were British.

Chinese defense companies were among those present, including those named in the documents that were found earlier this month, according to military analysts.

Pieter Wezeman is a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute who specializes in arms transfers to the Middle East and North Africa. “It's quite sure that China would try to sell all types of equipment, anything from small arms to armored vehicles to combat aircraft as they would elsewhere too, and as other countries have tried to do.  However, very little is known about what China actually delivered," he said.

Wezeman adds that as more information surfaces, it should become clearer what role China might have played in arming Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. "From what I have seen, from the images I have seen, there have been many other types of weapons from, again, a whole range of countries.  I’ve seen Belgian rifles; I’ve seen Russian rifles.  We know that there have been considerable numbers of Ukrainian rifles, just to mention a few examples," he said.

Analyst Richard Fisher says Chinese weapons played a role in the conflict. “A casual review of imagery of the fighting since the civil war began indicates quite clearly that both sides in the conflict were using Chinese weapons.  Both sides were firing Chinese rocket propelled grenades at each other.  Both sides were using Chinese made pickup trucks to carry large machine guns or mortars for use against each other," he said.

U.S. officials say they have not seen anything that contradicts China’s position that no arms were sold.  Speaking in Washington at a meeting sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor newspaper, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said this week that China has told the United States that it plans to "strengthen internal controls" to ensure that meetings such as those in July do not occur again.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid