UPDATE 1-China's Hu to woo Central Asia energy suppliers
* To launch new Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline
* Beijing says open to more energy deals
(Writes through with details, background)
By Chris Buxley and Olzhas Auyezov
BEIJING/ALMATY, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Chinese leader Hu Jintao will mark a new milestone in Beijing's quest for control over Central Asia's energy resources when he inaugurates a new gas pipeline from Turkmenistan next week.
China has already stepped up its presence in the region by handing out billions of dollars in loans, snapping up energy assets and building an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan.
The new pipeline will add natural gas to the resources China buys from the region, which was for decades dominated by Russia but is now also close to the West.
Hu will visit Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan from Saturday to Monday, and in Turkmenistan he will attend the formal opening of a gas pipeline connecting China to Central Asia, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya told a news conference in Beijing.
Another official at the briefing said China was open to other energy projects in central Asia, where the former Soviet states have been looking beyond Russia for fresh markets.
"In the energy sector, China is pursuing diversification of energy imports, while the Central Asian countries are pursuing diversification of exports," said Zhang Xiyun, director-general of the Chinese foreign ministry's department for European-Central Asian affairs.
"This kind of cooperation will naturally continue and has room to develop further," said Zhang, who mentioned Central Asian reserves of oil, natural gas and uranium.
COMPETING WITH GAZPROM
The 1,833-kilometre (1,139-mile) Turkmenistan-China pipeline also stretches through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan into western China's restive Xinjiang region. It starts close to a gas field developed by China's CNPC.
With capacity of 40 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year, it will ease Turkmenistan's dependence on Russia, which purchases about 50 bcm a year.
Russia's Gazprom (GAZP.MM) stopped buying Turkmen gas in April due to a pricing dispute in a move that has cost Turkmenistan an estimated $1 billion a month. The two sides have yet to agree on new supply terms.
China has helped Turkmenistan partially offset the losses by giving it a $3 billion loan to develop the South Iolotan field, one of the world's five largest natural gas deposits. [ID:nL3566095]
Beijing has also given $10 billion in loans to Kazakhstan this year, securing a stake in Kazakh oil producer MangistauMunaiGas in return. [nGEE5AO124]
China already receives Kazakh oil by pipeline and continued to increase its share of its production through acquisitions this year, including purchase of an 11 percent stake in state-controlled KazMunaiGas EP (KMGq.L) for $939 million.
It also entered the booming Kazakh uranium sector in April, when China Guandong Nuclear Power Co (CGNPC) and Kazakh state nuclear firm Kazatomprom announced plans to lift uranium output from their joint venture. [ID:nPEK80170]
"China, unlike many other economies, is growing and will continue to grow," Kazakh central bank chairman Grigory Marchenko said at a briefing on Thursday.
"They need resources for that. Geographically, it is easiest and cheapest to get those resources in Kazakhstan. Our geography is our destiny."
-- For a factbox on Chinese energy investments in Central Asia pleace click on [ID:GEE5B91CK] (Reporting by Chris Buxley in Beijing and Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty)
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