An advance team of Chinese engineers and medical officers arrived in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region Saturday.

A United Nations spokesman says the 135 personnel are the first of a 315-member army engineering unit that will support that joint African Union-U.N. peacekeeping mission to Darfur. The rest of the Chinese force is due to arrive in December.

The Chinese engineering team will dig wells and build roads and bridges in preparation for the deployment of the 26,000-member peacekeeping force scheduled to begin arriving in January. That force will replace 7,000 beleaguered African Union peacekeepers.

The Sudanese government has welcomed the Chinese mission to Darfur. But critics object to Beijing's involvement because they say Chinese-made weapons that have found their way to the troubled region have contributed to genocide and robbery.

China is the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil.

Some information for this article provided by Reuters and AFP.