The Chinese government has been hesitant to endorse the National Transitional Council since their defeat of Qaddafi’s regime in Libya. And now, documents uncovered by a Canadian journalist in Tripoli reveal that Chinese state-owned companies tried to broker a deal to sell arms to Qaddafi’s forces during the civil war. The Globe and Mail broke the story:
Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail show that state-controlled Chinese arms manufacturers were prepared to sell weapons and ammunition worth at least $200-million to the embattled Col. Gadhafi in late July, a violation of United Nations sanctions.
The documents suggest that Beijing and other governments may have played a double game in the Libyan war, claiming neutrality but covertly helping the dictator. The papers do not confirm whether any military assistance was delivered, but senior leaders of the new transitional government in Tripoli say the documents reinforce their suspicions about the recent actions of China, Algeria and South Africa. Those countries may now suffer a disadvantage as Libya’s new rulers divide the spoils from their vast energy resources, and select foreign firms for the country’s reconstruction.
See also a video interview of Globe and Mail reporter Graeme Smith discussing how he and his colleagues found the documents.
While the Globe and Mail report does not confirm that deliveries of weapons were completed, members of the National Transitional Council believe they were, CNN reports:
“We found several documents that showed us orders, very large orders, of arms and ammunition specifically from China, and now we do know that some of the things that were on the list are here on the ground, and they came in over the last two to six months,” said Abdulrahman Busin, NTC spokesman.
He said it is unclear whether the exact list on the document was delivered, “but there were many things on that list that are here, and these are brand-new equipment, brand-new weapons, brand-new boxes of ammunition that haven’t been opened yet, that were clearly delivered only in the last few months.
“Don’t forget that we have many of the generals and high commanders who defected some time ago who know Gadhafi’s regime very, very well, know what he has and doesn’t have, and we know 100% that there was a lot of weapons and arms that were delivered to Gadhafi over the last few months — during the war and during the sanctions,” Busin said.
China’s Foreign Ministry has now denied that Chinese weapons were sent to Libya, while acknowledging that the Globe and Mail reports of meetings between Libyan officials and Chinese arms dealers are true. From the New York Times:
“Chinese companies have not signed any military or trade contracts with Libya, let alone provided military exports to Libya,” the spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue, said at the ministry’s daily briefing. “China exercises strict management over all military exports.
“Relevant Chinese government departments with responsibilities over military exports will take this matter seriously,” she said.
Officials of Libya’s transitional government had expressed outrage over the documents, which were first reported by The Globe and Mail of Toronto. The records indicate that, during meeting in Beijing in mid-July, Chinese arms merchants sought to sell Qaddafi representatives $200 million worth of sophisticated weapons, including portable surface-to-air missiles similar to the American-made Stinger that potentially could bring down certain military aircraft.
Chinese arms brokers suggested that the weapons be delivered via South Africa or Algeria, and said that Algeria’s existing stock of Chinese arms could be immediately transferred to Libya and replenished by fresh shipments from China.
The Chinese spokeswoman, Ms. Zhang, did not say why the arms deals were not completed, but she noted that all arms sales must win government approval before the weapons are exported.
Meanwhile, the National Transitional Council has said that if the reports are true and China did sell arms to Qaddafi, it will influence Libya’s future relationship with China, Bloomberg reports:
“If indeed the Chinese government agreed to sell arms to Qaddafi only a month ago, definitely it will affect our relationship with China,” the National Transitional Council’s finance minister, Ali Al Tarhouni, told Al Jazeera television yesterday. The outcome would be “not favorable,” he said.
Tarhouni was speaking in response to a story by Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper, whose reporter in Tripoli said he found Qaddafi-government documents suggesting Chinese companies offered to sell to surface-to-air missiles designed to bring down aircraft, in addition to other weapons and munitions.
See also a report from Al Jazeera.
– China offered Gadhafi huge stockpiles of arms: Libyan memos from the Globe and Mail
– Beijing Says Qaddafi Officials Sought Chinese Arms Supplies from the New York Times
– China denies report, says it did not sell weapons to Libya from CNN
– Libya Leaders Say China Relationship Will Suffer If Arms Sold to Qaddafi from Bloomberg
– “Don’t Rush to Celebrate the Post-Gaddafi Era” from CDT