BEIJING, June 30 (UPI) -- China assured Omar al-Bashir of close bilateral ties during his state visit, even as the Sudanese president faces war crimes charges.
Al-Bashir's four-day visit, which began Tuesday after an unexplained daylong delay, was at the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The Chinese leader said bilateral relations would remain friendly regardless of changes in the international situation or in Sudan's domestic affairs, which would soon see the country's southern region separate to become an independent nation.
Al-Bashir faces an International Criminal Court indictment over war crimes arising from fighting in the Darfur region.
"China will firmly pursue a friendly policy toward Sudan," Hu said during his meeting with al-Bashir Wednesday, China Daily reported. "No matter the changes in the international situation and Sudan's internal situation, this policy will remain unchanged."
Hu said China would continue to encourage Chinese companies to participate in the exploration and development of mining resources in Sudan. Al-Bashir has called China a model partner and said the independence of southern Sudan "will not affect the relationship."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said this week the United States continues to "oppose invitations, facilitations, support for travel" by those indicted by the ICC. She urged other nations to do the same.
China, a major buyer of Sudanese oil, has defended al-Bashir's visit as its right and maintained it has reserved its opinion toward the International Criminal Court lawsuit against al-Bashir.
Beijing has been a major partner in both the political and economic sectors in Sudan, which has been under Western sanctions for years, China Daily said. China has also been building ties with the emerging state in southern Sudan, and several high-ranking officials have visited China.