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Zimbabwe: China clears air on arms shipment
Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2008

Herald Reporter
April 24, 2008

CHINA has poured cold water on opposition and Western claims that an arms shipment to Zimbabwe was to be used in a clampdown against MDC-T supporters, pointing out that Harare placed the order last year.

A spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Jiang Yu, has stated the arms contract was signed last year contrary to claims that it was related to the current election situation in Zimbabwe.

"This is normal trade in military products between the two countries," Jiang told a Press briefing in Beijing.

She added that the shipment was "irrelevant" to what was taking place in Zimbabwe at the moment.

Jiang also reiterated China's long-held foreign policy that its economic dealings with other countries, including the sale of arms, adhered to a strict policy of non-interference in their sovereign affairs – a stance that has boosted the emerging power's ties with Africa, much to the chagrin of the West.

This is contrary to claims in some quarters that the Government intends to use the arms in a clampdown on opposition MDC-T supporters.

On Monday, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Cde Patrick Chinamasa pointed out that Zimbabwe had a right to arm itself to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity while dismissing suggestions that the military would want to use the arms against civilians.

The European Union, the United States and their allies slapped an arms ban on Zimbabwe in 2002 and observers have said in such a situation, it was only natural that the country would increase such trade with traditional partners such as China.

Zimbabwe and China's military co-operation dates back to the Second Chimurenga.

China's Xinhua news agency has also criticised the attention the West has given the transaction, citing data provided by Sweden's Stockholm International Peace Research Institute showing that Beijing contributes just 2 percent of the global arms trade compared to the United States' 30 percent.

Interestingly, in recent years Kenya, which experienced election-related violence that accounted for over a thousand deaths, has been the biggest official purchaser of US arms in Africa though there has never been a corresponding outcry there.


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