Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The president of South Sudan Salva Kiir yesterday began a state visit to Beijing, a major supporter of the Sudanese regime of Omar al-Bashir. While in the African country continues to struggle to define the boundaries after the declaration of independence of South Sudan, Kiir hopes to get China's help to improve relations with Khartoum and especially to obtain funds to build an alternative pipeline to the one currently in the hands of Sudan.
The African country is rich in oil and natural gas. Its geography, however, condemns it to a constant battle to manage this wealth: the oil wells are in the Christian majority South, while the refineries and infrastructure necessary for the extraction and transportation of crude oil are in the Muslim majority north. On 9 July last year Kiir declared independence: on 10 April, his troops occupied Heglig oil-rich, but were repelled by the army of al-Bashir.
The dictator, subjected to a regime of sanctions by the international community, said: "There will be no negotiations with these people. They are insects that need to be eliminated. Our talks with them are with guns and bullets." The issue is not only internal: the clashes could lead to suspension of oil deliveries to China, which last year bought about 12.99 million barrels (equal to 5% of its total imports).
Beijing has a huge appetite for energy, which it needs to maintain the industrial production at current rates. It purchases oil from all over the world and unlike the rest of the international community to does business with regimes subject to sanctions. According to Professor Yin Gang, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, "the dispute between Juba and Khartoum will be the focus of this visit."
The academic, who studies African issues, "Beijing has a responsibility to resolve this dispute. But it will not go much further than an invitation to dialogue, because the division of the country in two was not part of Chinese plans and has created many problems" . Last January, South Sudan halted production of crude oil after accusing Khartoum of "stealing" this move has caused a loss to China that amounted to 260 thousand barrels per day of imports.