Closer China Ties Seen Pressuring Brunei on Sensitive Maritime Claims
Closer business ties with Beijing could lead tiny, economically strapped Brunei to open a potentially oil-rich tract of sea to Chinese exploration despite competing sovereignty claims, experts say. The two countries contest rights to a rectangular tract of the South China Sea extending northwest from the island of Borneo. But ties have improved while the Bruneian economy slips because of declining world oil prices and diminishing supplies. Oil and gas make up 60 percent of Brunei’s economy. China is propping up that economy now with investments that will make it easier to tap, process and transport fossil fuels, experts say. Economic concerns will take "priority" over political issues including sovereignty, said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. "I think that China has not so much been using like an aggressive approach with Brunei, but just using economic incentives," Spangler said. "I don’t know if it will even need to tell Brunei what to do about its maritime claims." As recent signs of closer ties, Chinese contractors built a 2,680-meter-long sea bridge that’s due to open this month. China’s Hengyi Petrochemicals Co. offered $79 million worth of bonds last month on a Chinese stock exchange to fund a petrochemical plant in Brunei. Chinese pressure Heads of state from Brunei and China said in September the Southeast Asian country would get more play on Beijing’s Belt and Road, a $900 billion initiative calling for new Chinese-funded infrastructure and stronger trade routes in 65 Eurasian countries. China has invested roughly $4.1 billion altogether in Brunei. Still, the Bruneian economy sank 2.5% in 2016 and the International Monetary Fund forecast it would fall again last year on global fuel prices that have gone weaker since 2015. Growing economic dependence on China could compel Brunei to soften its maritime... If you wish to read this full breaking news headline, plus more articles from around Thailand and Asia like, Closer China Ties Seen Pressuring Brunei on Sensitive Maritime Claims, simply click on 'Read full story' below, but 1st please give us a 'LIKE' or 'SHARE' before you leave. Thank you
Published By: VOA NEWS - Wednesday, 11 April, 2018
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