| BEIJING, June 4
BEIJING, June 4 Chinese president Hu Jintao
will sign an agreement to increase crude pipeline capacity from
Central Asia during a trip to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan next
week, part of China's efforts to diversify oil sources.
Hu will also attend the annual meeting of the Shanghai
Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional security grouping
that is led by China and Russia. Regional economic development
will also be on the agenda there.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the
meeting, Chinese assistant foreign minister Cheng Guoping said,
but added that there are currently no plans for a Sino-Iranian
During the Kazakh leg of his visit, Hu will sign a deal to
start feasibility studies for the phase-two expansion of the
landmark Kazakh-China crude pipeline, said a PetroChina
official based in Almaty.
Plans are to double the capacity of the line to 400,000
barrels per day by 2013, but the study will consider whether to
revamp the existing 620 km (385 miles) pipeline from Kumkol to
Atasu, or to build a new line.
Phase I of the expansion, a 794 km line connecting Kenkiyak
and Kumkol, was completed about a year ago, allowing China
access to the vast oil deposits in western Kazakhstan.
The Sino-Kazakh line accounts for roughly 4 percent of
China's total crude imports, which hit a record high of more
than 5 million bpd in April.
It is now pumping at its full capacity of 200,000 bpd, said
Chinese planners worry that the country's increasing
dependence on crude oil imports makes China strategically
vulnerable over the long shipping routes, and therefore have
been pursuing overland pipeline projects.
But crude imports from Central Asia carry their own risk,
since they pass through Xinjiang. That frontier region is home
to the Uighurs, a central Asian people who chafe at religious
and linguistic restrictions of Chinese rule and at economic
policies that favour Chinese migrants and corporations.
Hu will seek cooperation from Kazakhstan in combating "East
Turkestan" separatism, Cheng said.
China blames separatists for unrest in the region,
including bloody riots in Urumqi last July that grew out of
protests over the killing of Uighur migrant workers in south
China. Hu's visit to Uzbekistan will also be marked by deals to
expand infrastructure and agricultural cooperation, Cheng said.
The SCO membership comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran, Pakistan, Mongolia and
India are observers, while Belarus and Sri Lanka have the
lesser status of dialogue partners.
The bloc's activities have focused on military cooperation,
intelligence-sharing and the fight against terrorism and drugs.
The interim foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan will attend the
meeting, Cheng said.
China has taken a cautious view on a bloody April revolt in
Kyrgyzstan. Cheng said only that China "hopes and believes" the
interim government will take steps towards establishing a
legally based government.
(Editing by Paul Tait)