THE PRESIDENT OF South Sudan says attacks by rival Sudan amount to a declaration of war on his country.
Salva Kiir made the remark during talks with Chinese president Hu Jintao in Beijing today. Kiir arrived in China yesterday for a five-day visit.
On Monday, Sudanese warplanes bombed a market and an oil field in South Sudan, killing at least two people after Sudanese ground forces reportedly crossed into South Sudan with tanks and artillery.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to press ahead with his military campaign until all southern troops or affiliated forces are chased out of the north.
The president of South Sudan is visiting China to lobby for investment in his country’s oil industry and diplomatic support as the conflict with Sudan escalates.
Sudan and South Sudan, which broke away from its neighbor and became independent last year, have been unable to resolve disputes over sharing oil revenue and determining a border. Talks broke earlier down this month.
China’s energy needs make it deeply vested in the future of the two Sudans, and Beijing is uniquely positioned to exert influence in the conflict given its deep trade ties to the resource-rich south and decades-long diplomatic ties with Sudan’s government in the north.
Both have tried to win Beijing’s favor, but China has been careful to cultivate ties with each nation. Like others in the international community, China has repeatedly urged the two sides to return to negotiations.
During his visit, Kiir will also visit Shanghai and bilateral agreements will be signed, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said, without providing details. Liu also reiterated Beijing’s call for more talks between the neighbors.
“China is concerned about the two Sudans’ disputes regarding oil,” Liu said. “We hope they will use dialogue to settle those disputes and avoid actions that will escalate tension. We know that oil is the lifeline of the two countries.”
During his five-day stay, Kiir may also seek to mend differences over the expulsion in February of a senior Chinese oil executive alleged to have helped Sudan divert the South’s oil.
Jiang said kicking Liu Yingcai out of South Sudan may have been meant to prod Beijing into exerting more pressure on Sudan to stop the oil diversions but that it was unlikely to impact China-South Sudan relations in the long run.