China called on Russia Tuesday to ensure oil giant Yukos meets commitments to Chinese customers.
Yukos decided over the weekend to suspend exports to state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), the country's largest oil company, because it cannot pay the freight and customs costs.
Yukos was scheduled to ship about 400,000 metric tons of oil per month to CNPC, for a total of 1 million tons before the end of the year.
The company, which pumps a fifth of Russia's output and supplies approximately 7 percent of China's daily consumption needs, is in a dispute with Russian authorities over taxes and has had its bank accounts frozen.
Some analysts believe that Yukos' action is a ploy designed to put pressure on the Kremlin ahead of Premier Wen Jiabao's state visit to Russia, which begins on Thursday. Wen will meet President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders during the trip.
Energy cooperation is in fact a top agenda item, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan.
China's energy needs are surging in line with its rapid economic growth. Oil imports from Russia jumped 73 percent last year to 5.3 million tons. Crude oil imports for the first eight months of this year reached nearly 80 million tons, up 39.2 percent from the same period last year, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Russian producers supplied 6.4 million tons of crude oil to China from January to August.
(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily September 22, 2004)