- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 13, 2005

President Bush has a historic opportunity to rehabilitate his human rights credentials when he visits China this weekend by confronting Chinese President Hu Jintao about his country’s role in protecting the Sudanese government from United Nations’ sanctions to help end the world’s worst humanitarian disaster: the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

As Sudan’s largest customer for oil, one of its largest suppliers of arms, and one of its staunchest allies on the U.N. Security Council, China is uniquely positioned to press the Sudanese government for real action to halt the carnage in Darfur. The Sudanese government and its paramilitary allies, the Janjaweed militias, have killed at least 180,000 innocent people, driven 2.5 million people from their homes, and left 3.5 million without sufficient food to sustain themselves.

While the Sudan government has heeded President Bush’s call to cooperate in the war on terror and with the January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the two-decade-long Sudan civil war between the Muslim government in the north and Christian and Animist population in the south, it has failed to disarm and disperse the Janjaweed militias responsible for the daily slaughter of civilians. This has steadily worsened a security situation that threatens the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for which Mr. Bush has worked so hard.

Even as the violence in Darfur worsened and the Sudanese government’s role in supporting it became clearer, China was Sudan’s staunchest ally and chief protector in the U.N. Security Council. It has repeatedly forced the U.S. and other members of the Security Council to weaken already moderate resolutions by making sanctions optional instead of automatic for failing to disarm the Janjaweed militias and bring their leaders to justice. Those resolutions condemned the Sudanese government’s involvement in the crimes against humanity in Darfur and warned that the Security Council “shall consider taking additional measures” if Sudan failed to comply fully with its commitment to disarm the Janjaweed militias.

As originally proposed, the resolutions would have explicitly used the term “sanctions” and made repercussions for noncompliance automatic instead of merely suggested. China, which abstained from the votes but did not exercise a threatened veto, was instrumental in the weakening of these resolutions.

China’s motivations for protecting the Sudan government are significant. It imported more than 60 percent of Sudan’s exports in 2004, including 40 percent of its oil production. Much if not most of Sudan’s production infrastructure was built with Chinese “no questions asked” low-interest loans and Chinese engineers. Sudan is expected to earn more than $1 billion from oil this year, producing upward of 500,000 barrels per day. China has been a key supplier of arms to Sudan, including big-ticket items such as helicopters and jet fighters.

It is therefore vital that the U.S. and the international community explore every avenue available to end the violence in Darfur by engaging China. Beijing’s recent involvement in the multilateral talks with North Korea signal a willingness to become more engaged in influencing other nations’ policies.

President Bush should make clear during his visit it is in China’s best interest to see a stable and secure Sudan, which cannot exist until Darfur is stabilized and the killing is stopped.

As Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick noted earlier this year: “China should take more than oil from Sudan — it should take some responsibility for resolving Sudan’s human crisis.”

The U.S. — indeed the world — has a moral imperative to respond to genocide. We hope President Bush seizes this opportunity to engage China on this issue and make ending the genocide in Darfur a priority for his administration.

Rev. Richard Cizik is vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals and an executive committee member of the Save Darfur Coalition (www.SaveDarfur.org), an alliance of 134 faith-based, humanitarian and human-rights groups representing 130 million Americans. Rabbi David Saperstein is director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and a member of the Save Darfur Coalition.

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