By Liu Meng
The war between Sudan and South Sudan threatens China's energy security, and Beijing will continue to mediate a peace deal between the two sides, analysts said Thursday.
The comments came as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed Thursday to teach "a lesson by force" to the South Sudanese government over its seizure of the north's main Heglig oil field.
"America will not invoke sanctions on them, and the (UN) Security Council will not, but the Sudanese people are going to punish them," Bashir said at a rally of paramilitary troops.
Distrust runs deep between the neighbors at loggerheads over the position of their border, how much the landlocked South should pay to transport its oil through Sudan and the division of national debt, among other issues.
According to the AP, South Sudan repulsed three attacks from Sudan on Wednesday and another one Thursday.
China expressed "grim concern" Thursday at the escalation of conflicts, and again called for the two sides to immediately end such conflicts.
"Beijing has done a lot to mediate between the two sides. We will continue to work with the international community to promote dialogue," a foreign ministry spokesman said.
At the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit will visit Beijing from April 23 to 28.
The two sides are expected to discuss how to further increase political mutual trust, expand bilateral pragmatic cooperation in various fields, and exchange views on regional and international issues of common concern.
Yin Gang, a senior researcher at the Institute of Western Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that relieving the current tensions between Sudan and South Sudan would dominate talks between Hu and Mayardit.
"The war will impact oil supply to China. About 5 percent of China's oil imports come from Sudan. Given that regional tension in the Gulf is increasing, over 10 percent of oil imports to China would be endangered," Yin said.
Li Weijian, director at the Center of Western Asian and African Studies of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Oriental Morning Post that the whole region of Sudan, before South Sudan seceded, was one of those where China had the most successful overseas investment.
"China was not only the oil buyer but also invested in the whole oil industry chain as well as many infrastructure programs. Once the conflict intensifies, China will be affected," he said.
In the face of al-Bashir's words, South Sudan called for negotiations Thursday.
"We can only resolve this through talks with the African Union," said Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan's Minister of Information.
Sudan lost about 40,000 barrels per day of crude output - roughly a third of its total production - when South Sudan took control of the Heglig border region, State Oil Minister Ishaq Adam Gamaa said Wednesday.
Both countries are facing rising prices and foreign currency shortages as a result of the loss of oil revenues.
Li said that the oil disputes between Sudan and South Sudan posed a challenge to China's policy in the region.
"Mayardit's visit to Beijing is also proof that China has a relatively strong influence on the two countries," Li said.
Other countries also voiced concerns over the worst violence seen since South Sudan seceded in July under the terms of a 2005 peace settlement.
"Obviously, given the escalation of violence over the past few weeks, given the rhetoric that's being thrown about, we're very concerned," US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said.
Toner reiterated the US call for an "immediate and unconditional cessation of violence" by both parties.
Russia has also made similar calls, saying South Sudan's withdrawal of troops would create conditions for resuming talks between Khartoum and Juba.
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council discussed possible sanctions against Sudan and South Sudan in a bid to halt a wider war.
Xu Tianran and agencies contributed to this story