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South Sudan Asks China to Mediate Oil Dispute with North


Newly independent South Sudan has lowered its daily oil output by 20 percent in response to Sudan’s accusations that its new southern neighbor has supported rebel groups. Sudan has threatened to shut down the pipelines that travel through its territory unless the South agrees to stop fomenting rebellion. This comes just months after the two countries had come to an agreement on ramping up oil production in a mutually beneficial relationship. Reuters reports:

“The reduction started yesterday,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Mawien Makol Arik said, adding production was currently 160,000 bpd.

“It is going to go down gradually until it goes off,” he said. “This is a decision made by Khartoum…still accusing us of supporting rebels, which is a position we denied. We said we don’t do that.”

South Sudan has a substantial amount of oil, but it is also landlocked and needs access to its northern neighbor’s port. Ideally, Juba would pump the oil and Khartoum would bring it to market, bringing much-needed revenues to both governments. But deep-seated enmities have already unraveled what was a tenuous agreement to restart production.

In an interesting wrinkle to this situation, South Sudan has asked China to mediate talks between the two bickering countries. From a U.S. perspective, this is actually good news. China taking on greater global responsibilities—becoming a stakeholder in a liberal international economic order—means the US can reap the benefits of the global marketplace while doing less to maintain it.

[Oil pipeline photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • bpuharic

    Great analysis and excellent conclusion about China’s role. They’re obviously going to assume a bigger role in the world as their economy continues to expand; by integrating them into the international political process, they’ll have a stake in responsible outcomes.

    • rheddles

      Yes, this is leading from behind at it’s best. Far better to leave the primary influence of Africa to the Chinese Communist Party. They’ve done such a good job in Tibet and Xinjiang.

      • bpuharic

        They’re going to be there regardless of what you want. Why do you think THIS way of dealing with them is better than neocon confrontation?

        • rheddles

          When not the non sequitors, the strawmen.

      • Rol_Texas

        I think in this case our interests actually align with China’s. It’s not like Beijing would turn Sudan into a new province; they basically want to get the oil out of the earth and into the international market with minimal fuss. This is exactly what we would be trying to accomplish if we had a good reason to take charge of this situation. But this way, if China succeeds (and we would want them to succeed), then we get to benefit from the small measure of stability that that Sudanese oil will inject into international markets; if China fails or upsets one or more parties to the dispute, then we don’t get blamed for being the big bad resource colonialists, like we always used to.

        I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Chi-Coms aren’t exactly very ideological these days. Even if they wanted to convert the Sudanese masses to some brand of Maoism (which they definitely don’t), I would love to sit back and watch them embarrass themselves.

  • Jim__L

    Ceding them positions like this means ceding them power. We have to be very careful about doing so.

  • Corlyss

    “this is actually good news”

    I wouldn’t go THAT far. It has potential. The Sinoraptor is a predator of the first order. It’s more likely in my opinion that it will undertake building a pipeline that bypasses north Sudan somehow. The only relatively safe nation politically is Kenya. I’m no geologist so I don’t know if it’s even possible to go thru Kenya to the sea, but I bet they look at some kinda pipeline.

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