South Sudan has expelled the Chinese leader of its largest foreign oil firm, further raising the stakes in a bitter oil dispute with Sudan.
Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin on Wednesday accused Chinese national Liu Yingcai of cooperating with the north to steal millions of barrels of oil from Juba.
Liu was serving as the chief of Petrodar, a consortium that includes the state-run China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Malaysia's national oil company, Petronas.
China's Role in Sudan's Oil Trade
- China imports more than 60 percent of the oil exported by Sudan and South Sudan.
- Sudanese oil makes up for five percent of China's total oil imports.
- The former unified Sudan produced 350,000 barrels of oil per day. South Sudan now controls about three-quarters of the production.
Sudan Sudan officials say Liu was advised on Monday that he had 72 hours to leave the country.
Petrodar did not immediately respond to VOA's request for reaction. The Chinese-owned company has previously denied claims, however, it has colluded with Khartoum to seize South Sudan's oil.
China is the largest purchaser of Sudanese oil and has urged the neighboring countries to settle the dispute peacefully.
Last month, South Sudan halted oil production after accusing Sudan of stealing more than $800 million of oil transported through northern pipelines.
Khartoum has said it seized the oil because South Sudan had not paid the required fees use its oil pipelines and export facility.
More than 70 percent of Sudanese oil now belongs to South Sudan. But the new nation is landlocked and must rely on oil pipelines that run north to export it.
Both countries rely heavily on oil revenues, and their escalating dispute has raised fears they are on the brink of war.
The two sides currently are in talks to settle the oil dispute, a key issue that remained unresolved when South Sudan officials split from the north in July, becoming the world's newest nation.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.