China-Myanmar oil pipe to open in May
CNPC targets completion in coming months - but only 'if things go as planned', sparking analyst speculation of possible hitches in the project
Oil from the Middle East and natural gas could be flowing through pipelines from Myanmar to China by the end of May "if everything goes as planned", China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) said yesterday, after Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying's trip to Myanmar on Saturday.
The main parts of the pipelines in Myanmar were finished and those in Yunnan would be completed this month, the head of the CNPC project, Gao Jianguo , told Xinhua.
The 1,100-kilometre pipelines, from the port of Kyaukpyu in Myanmar to Ruili city in Yunnan, could transport 22 million tonnes of oil and 12 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year.
Oil will be shipped from the Middle East through the Indian Ocean before reaching Myanmar and China, instead of passing through the Strait of Malacca. The gas will come from Myanmar's Shwe gas fields, in the Bay of Bengal.
However, analysts interpreted CNPC's statement - "if everything goes as planned" - as an indication that the US$2.5 billion project still faced uncertainties.
Bilateral ties have become tricky following political reforms implemented by Myanmar since 2011 and its opening up to Western countries, highlighted by US President Barack Obama's visit to Myanmar in November.
Myanmar's decision to suspend a US$3.6 billion dam project that featured Chinese involvement cast another shadow over Sino-Myanmese relations.
Fu, the deputy minister, held talks with Myanmar's president, Thein Sein, on Saturday, with the two countries promising to improve border security and deepen bilateral co-operation.
"We have discussed aid, which is necessary for Myanmar's development," Thein Sein told China Central Television.
Fan Hongwei , an expert on Myanmese affairs, said the imminent completion of the pipelines was an attempt by the two countries to show that bilateral ties were still on a normal track.
But he added that Myanmar's opposition, which had complained that the project would damage the environment, might create obstacles.
Du Jifeng , from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Naypyidaw would demand compromises from Beijing before the project would go into operation because it wanted to show that it was respecting public opinion as it pushed ahead with political reforms.
Fu and Thein Sein also discussed the conflict between Myanmese government forces and rebels in Kachin state. The government announced a ceasefire last Friday.
Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo , deputy chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army, said in bilateral security talks in Naypyidaw on Sunday that he hoped the Kachin state conflict would be settled through peaceful means.