An SPLA soldier is pictured behind a South Sudan flag as he sits on the back of a pick-up truck in Bentiu, Unity state, file. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu

INTERNATIONAL – South Sudan and China have vowed to strengthen cooperation in the oil sector in a bid to increase production in the east African country's oil industry, a senior petroleum ministry official has said. 

Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan Hua Ning held talks with South Sudan's petroleum minister Awow Daniel Chuang over investment opportunities in the country's oil sector. 

Mayen Wol, undersecretary of the ministry of petroleum, said the two sides discussed ways of how Chinese oil companies operating in South Sudan can boost their existing exploration and investments, state-owned radio South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC) reported Thursday.

"We are going to be friendly to the Chinese companies so that they can extract the oil because this oil is beneficial to all of us," Wol told SSBC. 

South Sudan has the third-largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa, estimated at 3.5 billion barrels and much of the reserves being unexplored. 

However, A civil war that erupted in late-2013 affected the country's oil industry, with production declining from 350,000 barrels per day in 2011 to less than 130,000 in 2014 amid soaring inflation. 

Following the signing of a new peace deal in September 2018, conflict reduced and previously closed oilfields have reopened, and the landlocked country is hoping to raise daily output to nearly 200,000 barrels by the end of 2019.

Hua Ning said China is ready to help the world's youngest nation to develop its vast oil resources. 

"We will work together with the South Sudanese government and people together to build the oil industry and develop the production capabilities in a sustainable way," Hua said. "We are pleased to see that oil production has kept growing and it is a great support for the national economy and the peace process of South Sudan." he said.

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