Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Thursday, 20 November 2008

China revives Burma pipeline plan

An oil tanker carries oil from the Middle East.
China is a major importer of Middle East oil

China has revived its plan to build oil and gas pipelines into Burma, state media has reported.

State media has said construction would begin on the previously discussed pipeline plan in 2009.

The pipelines would cut shipping time and costs for journeys by sea through the Malacca Straits and secure access to energy supplies.

A Chinese Communist Party delegation to Burma has also lauded the closeness of ties between Beijing and Rangoon.

China is a major importer of Middle East oil. Burma also has rich energy reserves and is exploring for more in adjacent seas.

Expansion plans

The China Daily quoted Mi Dongsheng, head of the Provincial Development and Reform Commission of Yunnan province as saying the pipeline was part of its plan to spend 72bn yuan ($10.54bn; 7.08bn) on energy projects next year.

Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported that the project would include a $1bn gas pipeline and a $1.5bn oil pipeline.

China National Petroleum Corporation, the parent of market giant Petrochina, would manage and own a majority share in the joint project with Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise of Burma, the Japanese paper said.

China finished a domestic gas pipeline stretching from Xinjiang in the west to the energy-hungry east in 2004.

Construction of the second west-east natural gas pipeline began in February.

It plans to expand gas and oil pipelines by almost 60% by 2010, the China Daily report said.

Energy diplomacy

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and his Burmese counterpart U Kyaw Thu met in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, on Wednesday, said state news agency Xinhua.

At the same time in the new Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, Burmese Prime Minister General Thein Sein met a high-ranking delegation of the Chinese Communist Party, led by Zhang Gaoli.

Thein Sein was quoted as saying that Burma and China were "friendly neighbours", and that their mutually beneficial co-operation had "gained steady development".

Mr Zhang said that Sino-Burmese friendship "not only conforms to the fundamental interest of the two peoples but also contributes to peace, stability and development of the region and the world as well", Xinhua reported.

Most Western companies do not invest in Burma because of its continued detention of Nobel prizewinner Aung San Suu Kyi and thousands of other political prisoners.

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