Venezuelan officials say they will open talks with Panama next week on a proposal to pump oil through a pipeline there for shipment on to China.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez said Wednesday that he will travel to Panama on Sunday to discuss the project. Mr. Rodriguez also said Venezuela's goal is to diversify energy exports, not decrease oil exports to the United States.

His comments come days after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with Chinese leaders in Beijing and signed agreements dealing with such issues as economic cooperation and joint oil field exploration.

Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter. China, which faces a significant energy shortfall, is looking to strengthen energy cooperation with oil-exporting countries.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.