Even while expressing "regret" over NATO intervention in Libya, China did not block authorization of their airstrikes when the issue came before the U.N. earlier this year. The growing superpower has for a long time tried to carefully inhabit a role in major world conflicts that does not play favorites to any one side.
A new finding from the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, indicates, however, that China may have taken that role a step too far.
An official Qaddafi regime document the newspaper found in the trash of a Tripoli neighborhood once packed with government officials indicates "that state-controlled Chinese arms manufacturers were prepared to sell weapons and ammunition worth at least $200 million to the embattled Col. Gadhafi in late July, a violation of United Nations sanctions."Rebels: Talks over Qaddafi stronghold failed
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The Globe and Mail shared the documents with Libyan rebel leaders, and although they do not prove whether China actually sold Qaddafi weapons near the dictator's end, "the documents reinforce (the rebels') suspicions about the recent actions of China, Algeria and South Africa."
China has long since reached out diplomatically to the rebels' Transitional National Council in Libya, but these documents indicate they may have been playing a double game, attempting to back both sides at once.
Omar Hariri, chief of the TNC military committee, told the Globe and Mail that the documents help explain the presence of brand-new weapons his men encountered on the battlefield.
The items detailed for sale in the memo include: "Truck-mounted rocket launchers; fuel-air explosive missiles; and anti-tank missiles, among others. Perhaps most controversially, the Chinese apparently offered Col. Gadhafi's men the QW-18, a surface-to-air missile small enough for a soldier to carry on his shoulder - roughly similar to a U.S. Stinger, capable of bringing down some military aircraft."
The document reports in detail about a trip by Qaddafi security officials from Tripoli to Beijing in July. Three state-controlled weapons manufacturers offered Qaddafi's men their entire stock for sale, and later "thanked the Libyans for their discretion, emphasized the need for confidentiality, and recommended delivery via third parties."
"The companies suggest that they make the contracts with either Algeria or South Africa, because those countries previously worked with China," the memo says.
Members of the United Nations' Libya sanctions committee told The New York Times on Sunday that nothing about arms dealings with China had been brought to their attention.