Either Labour's message on the Congo has become horribly confused, with Malloch-Brown hinting at troop involvement whilst Milliband denies the suggestion, or it's just Labour's usual tactic of having two ministers proclaim opposing positions to allow Labour supporters to take their pick. Either way, it's no proper way to run the Foreign Office.
In 2007 China signed a $5 billion deal and acquired mining rights over much of the Congo's copper, cobalt, diamonds, gold, iron, and uranium in return for investment in transport infrastructure. It is, to date, China's largest investment in Africa. The deal also wrong-footed both Anglo-American and Rio Tinto as the Chinese took their pick of the choice mineral assets.
It is unclear whether the rebel's tactics are geared at gaining eventual control over the Congo's southern mining heartlands. If so, you can bet that China is talking discreetly to General Laurent Nkunda; maybe even a supply of arms is being negotiated. China will not let the lives of a few hundred thousand Africans interfere with its trade investment, you can be sure of that, and will back whichever side looks like winning.
What's clear is that it's no business of ours. It's time to let China start paying the cost of joining the international investment club, and send its own troops to the country if that's what's needed. In any event, our 19 year old lads from Manchester, or Norwich or Wrexham shouldn't lose their lives to protect Chinese trade interests. And if the AU feels uncomfortable about Chinese T76s rolling down the Kasumbalesa road, they'd better get their fingers out and do something themselves.
When the shooting stops, we can fly in a few C130s with food and aid and see what contracts our overseas firms can sign up with the winning regime. But what we need right now are brave words and total inaction. Something that even Labour can do.