L’offerta segreta di armare Gheddafi fa comparire le tensioni nel governo cinese

Nyt     110911

L’offerta segreta di armare Gheddafi fa comparire le tensioni nel governo cinese


– A metà circa luglio 2011 tre dei maggiori gruppi statali cinesi degli armamenti (China North, China Precision Machinery, China Xinxing Import e Export Corporation) hanno offerto segretamente all’esercito di Gheddafi $200 mn. di armamenti (solo l’esercito cinese poteva avere nei propri magazzini un tale ammontare di armi) per reprimere i ribelli, contro l’embargo Onu sulle armi, sottoscritto dalla stessa Cina.

– Il governo cinese ha dichiarato di non aver dato il proprio consenso per questi accordi; tecnicamente i venditori di armi cinesi non devono avere il permesso prima di negoziare con clienti esteri.

– La notizia sui negoziati libici (scoperta da un giornalista canadese) fa venire alla luce un disaccordo secondo gli analisti da tempo esistente tra il ministero Difesa e quello Esteri, entrambi i quali devono esprimersi sulla vendita di armi; ma le relazioni personali pesano molto sulal scelta a chi venderle … in particolare tra costruttori di armi e militari, che ne controllavano diversi prima degli anni Novanta.

– I grandi gruppi statali degli armamenti, molto legati ai militari, avrebbero secondo alcuni la possibilità di manovrare il personale del ministero Esteri, che negozia la posizione della Cina sulle sanzioni internazionali.

– Dall’inizio della rivolta libica a febbraio, la politica della Cina verso la Libia è stata in discussione:

o   il governo sembrava diviso tra gli interessi economici per il mantenimento del regime Gheddafi (il 3% del fabbisogno petrolifero della Cina, estesi investimenti, la Cina forniva da tempo armi all’esercito libico)

o   e stare dalla parte dei vincenti se i suoi oppositori avessero vinto. 

o   Per gran parte del dibattito sembravano vincere i pro-Gheddafi; la Cina è l’unica delle potenze che non ha ancora riconosciuto il CNP libico.

o   Difficile dire se nei negoziati sugli armamenti entrassero questi calcoli, anche perché i governo afferma che non sono mai stati consegnate le armi in contrattazione (tra cui missili anticarro, lanciamissili, missili portatili in grado di colpire un aereo)

– Alcuni dei gruppi coinvolti avrebbero precedenti di aggiramento delle sanzioni, tra queste gli Usa accusano China North Industries Corporation e China National Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation per aver venduto tecnologia missilistica all’Iran, in violazione delle sanzioni internazionali.

– Nell’ultimo decennio i gruppi cinesi sono stati i maggiori fornitori di armi e munizioni al Sudan (conflitto in Darfur, nonostante il divieto ONU), stesse accuse fatte anche per le guerre in Congo ed altri paesi africani.

Per nascondere gli acquisti di armi, Gheddafi le faceva arrivare attraverso l’Algeria e il Sud Africa.

Nyt      110911
September 11, 2011
Secret Bid to Arm Qaddafi Sheds Light on Tensions in China Government

–   BEIJING — At a United Nations conference in Indonesia this summer, an official of the agency that oversees China’s weapons industry ticked off the hurdles that any proposal to sell Chinese weapons abroad must clear. Among them: arms sales must not alter another nation’s internal security. They must not violate United Nations arms embargoes. And they must win government approval.

“If you want to export a product, you should get permission,” said the official, Wang Feng. “You want to talk to some other country, you ship to the country, you should get permission.”

–   That was on June 11, or roughly a month before three of China’s biggest state-owned arms companies secretly offered to sell Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s army $200 million in weapons to put down the rebellion. The offer, discovered by a Canadian journalist in documents tossed into a Tripoli trash heap, flouted a United Nations embargo on weapons sales to the Qaddafi government — an embargo that China itself had voted for in February.

The government, at Foreign Ministry briefings last week, has said that it gave no permission for the deals to proceed.

–   China’s leaders have never liked international sanctions, calling them interference in other nations’ affairs. But the disclosure of the Libyan negotiations underscores a divide many analysts say has long existed between the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry — which both have a say in approving arms sales.

–   Some believe that big state-run weapons companies, with their close ties to the military, easily make end runs around the diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, which negotiates China’s position on international sanctions.

–   “It’s possible, and has been the case in the past, that Chinese arms companies push their own agenda,” Mathieu Duchatel, a senior researcher in Beijing with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said in an interview. “There are informal relationships between the different actors, and the logical decision-making process can be bypassed in certain cases.”

–   The military alliance may gain an added edge when the diplomats are themselves embattled. Since the rebels mounted their revolt last February, China’s policy toward Libya has been up for grabs, with the government apparently torn between economic interest in Colonel Qaddafi’s continued rule and a desire to be on the winning side should his opponents take control.

–   During much of this debate, supporters of Colonel Qaddafi seem to have had the upper hand. Alone among major powers, China has yet to recognize the rebels’ Transitional National Council, which took effective control of Libya after Colonel Qaddafi’s ouster.

–   Whether these calculations figured in the arms negotiations is hard to say, in part because the government insists that the arms being negotiated — antitank missiles, rocket launchers and portable rockets capable of bringing down aircraft, among others — were never delivered. Technically, at least, Chinese arms vendors are not required to seek permission before talking about deals with foreign customers.

–   On the other hand, some of the companies involved in negotiations with Colonel Qaddafi’s government have a track record of skirting sanctions, American officials say. The United States has repeatedly cited two of the firms, the China North Industries Corporation and the China National Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation, for selling missile technology and other equipment to Iran that it says violate international sanctions.

Chinese officials have argued that the Americans rely on incorrect information or too-sweeping definitions of prohibited weapons components.

–   More broadly, China’s record on enforcing international sanctions remains weak, many experts say. For example, the latest United Nations report on the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, issued in May, faults China for failing to intercept suspected shipments of ballistic-missile items on North Korean cargo planes that land there en route to Iran. After vigorous protests by the Chinese, the report identified China only as “a neighboring third country.”

–   Chinese companies were major suppliers in the past decade of small arms and ammunition to Sudan, where they fueled the conflict in Darfur despite a United Nations prohibition. Similar charges have been leveled in wars in Congo and other African nations. Chinese officials say they have no control over arms once they reach their destination.

–   In theory, the violations should never occur to begin with. A government agency issues arms-export licenses in consultation with China’s Defense Ministry and its Foreign Affairs Ministry. The Defense Ministry is supposed to advise whether a weapon or technology is suited to sell to others. The Foreign Affairs Ministry advises whether they should be sold at all.

–   But in the Chinese government, as in Chinese life, personal relationships carry huge weight. And it is widely believed by outside experts that the fraternal ties between arms makers and the military, which owned many of them before weapons-making was hived off in the 1990s, overwhelm the diplomats’ say in the process. “The state-owned enterprises have a lot more leeway with regard to whom they can trade with,” said Stephanie Lieggi, a senior researcher and an expert on China’s arms industry at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.

–   That may be especially true with the trade in conventional weapons, which has taken a back seat among arms-control advocates to restraining the traffic in nuclear weapons components and their missile delivery systems.

–   China’s policy toward Libya was in flux in July, when China North, China Precision Machinery and a third company, the China Xinxing Import and Export Corporation, began brokering weapons deals in Beijing meetings with Colonel Qaddafi’s representatives.

–   Joining an international outcry, China had supported an arms embargo against the Qaddafi government that won unanimous United Nations support last February. But the Chinese abstained from a subsequent resolution that essentially approved military support for the Libyan rebels. And not without reason: China had relied on the Qaddafi government for 3 percent of its oil needs and had extensive business interests in Libya. China also had long supplied Libya’s military with weaponry.

The arms-sales proposals drawn up in July, in meetings between Chinese company officials and Libyan military attachés, were notable on several accounts, scholars and experts say.

–   One was the sheer size of the $200 million order. “Usually, arms companies don’t have that in stock,” said Tai Ming Cheung, a senior researcher at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, San Diego. “The only organization that would have such large stockpiles would be the Chinese military.”

–   Another was the suggestion by the Chinese arms brokers, outlined in the trash-heap documents, that Libya conceal its purchases by funneling them through Algeria and South Africa, two governments sympathetic to Colonel Qaddafi. That not only would have made the weapons deliveries harder to detect, one Beijing researcher noted, it would also have provided a fig leaf for Chinese government concerns that the sales would violate a United Nations embargo.

–   But the government has said it knew nothing of the sales pitch. And so there is no evidence that the arms companies’ proposals to sidestep the embargo were known to higher-ups, much less carried out. “China has a prior record of nonimplementation of U.N. sanctions resolutions, so this is not too surprising,” said an expert at one Beijing research organization who refused to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. “It just doesn’t like to get caught.”

Li Bibo contributed research.

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