China offered Gadhafi huge stockpiles of arms
China offered huge stockpiles of weapons to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi during the final months of his regime, according to papers that describe secret talks about shipments via Algeria and South Africa.
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.
Omar Hariri, chief of the transitional council’s military committee, reviewed the documents and concluded that they explain the presence of brand-new weapons his men encountered on the battlefield. He expressed outrage that the Chinese were negotiating an arms deal even while his forces suffered heavy casualties in the slow grind toward Tripoli.
‘I’m almost certain that these guns arrived and were used against our people,’ Mr. Hariri said.
The document reports in detail about a trip by Col. Gadhafi’s security officials from Tripoli to Beijing. They arrived on July 16, and in the following days they met with officials from three state-controlled weapons manufacturers: China North Industries Corp. (Norinco); the China National Precision Machinery Import & Export Corp. (CPMIC); and China XinXing Import & Export Corp. The Chinese companies offered the entire contents of their stockpiles for sale, and promised to manufacture more supplies if necessary.
‘The companies suggest that they make the contracts with either Algeria or South Africa, because those countries previously worked with China,’ the memo says.
Appendices stapled to the memo, and scattered nearby, show the deadly items under discussion: truck-mounted rocket launchers; fuel-air explosive missiles; and anti-tank missiles, among others. Perhaps most controversially, the Chinese apparently offered Col. Gadhafi’s men the QW-18, a surface-to-air missile small enough for a soldier to carry on his shoulder – roughly similar to a U.S. Stinger, capable of bringing down some military aircraft.
The three governments have been reluctant to endorse NATO’s actions in Libya, but claimed to support the arms embargo. Before abstaining from the UN resolution that authorized ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians, China approved an earlier decision, Resolution 1970, that banned all military assistance to Tripoli. At the time, China’s representative at the United Nations said the ‘bloodshed and civilian casualties’ were part of the ‘special circumstances’ that prompted his country to vote in favour of the sanctions. South Africa also endorsed the sanctions, saying they would send a message that the Libyan regime should stop its indiscriminate use of force.
Given the difficulty of punishing UN embargo breaches, it seems likely that the more important consequences for the countries involved – China and Algeria in particular – will be their tarnished reputations in Tripoli.
Now that Col. Gadhafi has lost power, the Chinese appear to fear, with some justification, that they could lose their foothold in the Libyan oil fields.
‘Oil is a basis for war, and oil was the fundamental interest behind the war,’ wrote the Chinese media group Caixin in a recent commentary.