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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...

 

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