Venezuelan oil sales to China have jumped by 60 percent since the start of the year, the country\'s oil minister said in an interview published Wednesday. The stepped up oil shipments to China are part of an effort by President Hugo Chavez to reduce reliance on the United States as the market for the bulk of its oil. \"We are selling 640,000 barrels of petrol per day to China,\" Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told newspaper El Universal. In February, Venezuela reported it was selling 400,000 barrels to the People\'s Republic. Ramirez said 264,000 barrels of oil would be used to repay the Latin American nation\'s debt to the Asian giant. Last week, Chavez announced that China Development bank will inject some $4 billion into development projects, to include housing, energy and industrial growth. Caracas announced earlier this year that by 2015, it aims to sell one million barrels of crude to China daily, which would equal the amount the nation sells to the United States. Ramirez said the increase in sales will be facilitated by increased production in the natural resource-rich Orinoco Oil Belt in the east of the country. Venezuela produces about three million barrels of oil per day (mbd), according to state figures, but the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) says the oil supply is 2.3 mbd. OPEC certified in 2011 that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world at 296.5 billion barrels, surpassing Saudi Arabia, the country with the largest refining capacity. Last March, Venezuelan authorities reported reserves had increased to 297,570 million.