South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said Tuesday that Sudan's recent actions amount to a declaration of war against the South. Kiir's comments, made during a visit to China, followed a series of bomb attacks in South Sudan's Unity State blamed on Sudanese armed forces.
"It comes at a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan because our neighbor, Khartoum, has declared war against the Republic of South Sudan," Kirr said while holding talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing.
Sudanese warplanes have continued dropping bombs on southern territory days after South Sudanese troops withdrew from an oil town at the center of recent clashes. At least three people have been killed in the air attacks, including a young boy.
“What happens in the next few days is very crucial on whether the two countries can avert the possibility of an outbreak of a full-blown conflict, or if they actually lead themselves headlong into a situation of all-out war,” said South Sudan's Deputy Defense Minister Majak D'Agoot from the state capital Bentiu.
South Sudan's military, the SPLA, has been sending reinforcements to the border with Sudan. Military officials say they are preparing defensive positions to respond to any further provocation from Khartoum.
Tensions have remained high between the two sides after the SPLA withdrew from the town of Heglig, which they occupied for about 10 days earlier this month.
Juba claims they left the area in response to international pressure, while Khartoum says it retook control by force.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited Heglig Monday to demonstrate that his forces were in control of the territory. He told soldiers there that there will be no further talks with Juba and that the south only understands the language of “guns and ammunition.”
D'Agoot said he is not convinced by Sudan's war rhetoric.
“I think Bashir is bluffing. He will ultimately come back to the table because he doesn't have many choices at hand; first of all, his army is in terrible shape, they have not withstood our pressure since the outbreak of this latest wave of hostilities,” said D'Agoot.
The United Nations refugee agency says recent fighting near the border has displaced some 35,000 people in parts of Sudan's South Kordofan province. Pro-southern rebels there have been fighting the Sudanese military since last June.
UNHCR says escalating hostilities are threatening the safety of refugees who fled to Unity State because of the violence and lack of food.
The United States, China and other world powers have called on Sudan and South Sudan to stop fighting and resume talks.