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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

CNN News, June 11, 2006.

BEIJING, China (AP) -- China's sales of military vehicles and weapons to Sudan, Nepal and Myanmar have aggravated conflicts and abetted violence and repressive rule in those countries, Amnesty International said in a report Monday.

The report by the London-based human rights group sheds light on an area of Chinese foreign policy that its government does not disclose: assistance to regimes embroiled in internal conflicts and often shunned by the West.

The group said China had shipped hundreds of military trucks to Sudan and Myanmar's military, and rifles and grenades to Nepal's security forces.

"China has used the phrase 'cautious and responsible' to describe its arms export licensing, however its record of trading arms in conflict-ridden countries like Sudan and Myanmar show their actions are anything but," Colby Goodman of Amnesty International's arms control campaign said in a statement.

A duty officer in the Foreign Ministry's spokesman's office, who refused to give her name, said Monday that the agency would look into the assertion but had no immediate comment.

China rarely confirms sales of weapons and military equipment abroad, a secrecy that is compounding U.S. concerns about how it is using its rapidly rising economic and diplomatic power abroad.

Senior U.S. government officials have publicly criticized China for a robust military buildup at home and a lack of transparency in its defense policies.

The Amnesty International report said a U.N. investigation in August 2005 showed China shipped more than 200 military trucks to Sudan, where large-scale violence in the Darfur region has claimed at least 180,000 lives and forced more than 2 million people from their homes since 2003.

The trucks were exported by Hubei Dong Feng Motor Industry Import and Export Co., a company based in the central Chinese province of Hubei, the report said.

The report also expressed concern that an American company might be involved. The report said the model of military trucks exported to Sudan were likely fitted with engines manufactured by Cummins Inc., a Columbus, Indiana-based maker of diesel engines with several ventures in China.

In a letter Amnesty International provided to The Associated Press, Cummins said that particular truck model was powered by engines produced by a joint venture between Cummins and a Chinese company.

Cummins was unaware that its engines would be installed in vehicles to be sold to Sudan for military use, the company's president of engine business, Jim Kelly, said in the letter.

Illicit trade
While the Amnesty International statement did not say exactly how that batch of trucks was being used in Sudan, the rights group said that in 2004 when massacres were widespread in Darfur, the Sudanese military and Arab militias known as Janjaweed traveled in military trucks. In some cases, the trucks also transported people for executions, the report said.

China also regularly supplies Myanmar's military junta with equipment, including an August 2005 shipment of 400 army trucks, despite its involvement in the "torture, killing and forced eviction of hundreds of thousands of civilians," the human rights group said.

The military has controlled Myanmar, also known as Burma, since 1962. The current junta took power in 1988 after brutally crushing a pro-democracy movement.

In April, Myanmar troops uprooted more than 11,000 ethnic minority civilians, often employing torture, killings and the burning of villages, according to reports from inside the country.

China also exported nearly 25,000 Chinese-made rifles and 18,000 grenades early this year to Nepal's security forces, which at the time were fighting thousands of anti-monarchy demonstrators with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition, the statement said.

Amnesty International also said illicit trade in Chinese-made pistols was growing in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and particularly South Africa.

The pistols are commonly used for robbery, rape and other crimes in South Africa, it said.

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