Refugees wait for daily rations as a Chinese soldier stands guard in Juba, South Sudan, in December.[Photo by Lyu Rui / Xinhua]
UN: Mission is to protect civilians, not energy industry infrastructure
Seven hundred Chinese soldiers will join a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan later this year to provide protection for civilians as a rebellion continues to rock the African country, a UN official said on Sept 10. A previous report said the soldiers were already being deployed.
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday that China is currently communicating with the United Nations secretariat over increasing Beijing’s support for an earlier UN resolution to deploy additional peacekeepers to the country.
Hua Chunying, at a regular news briefing, highlighted China’s willingness to support the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, adding that any participation by Chinese peacekeepers was in accordance with the UN Security Council authorization and aimed to maintain peace and stability.
The Wall Street Journal had quoted a spokesman for South Sudan’s president as saying the airlifting of a Chinese infantry battalion to the South Sudanese states of Unity and Upper Nile was underway and would be completed in several days.
Joe Contreras, the acting spokesman for the UN mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, said no date, nor a deployment area, had been finalized.
Contreras denied that the peacekeepers were protecting industry infrastructure in oil-rich South Sudan. China is the biggest investor in the country’s oil industry.
“Nowhere in the current mandate and mission does it say that peacekeepers will be asked to defend oil industry installations. When circumstances arise ... our peacekeepers will be called upon to protect civilian oil industry workers, but not the refinery or pipeline or storage tanks,” Contreras said.
UN officials previously said it would be the first time China had contributed a battalion to a UN peacekeeping mission. China sent its 12th peacekeeping unit to South Sudan in April, and had sent other units previously.
China has played an unusually active diplomatic role in South Sudan. Chinese officials have been in regular contact with Western diplomats to help African mediators push for a halt to fighting in the country. China has also pushed rival factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar to hold discussions.
Around 5 percent of China’s oil imports came from South Sudan when it was pumping at full tilt. State-owned China National Petroleum Corp has a 40-percent stake in a joint venture developing the country’s oil fields.
In May, the UN Security Council passed a resolution revising the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.
Reuters - China Daily