According to the Dow Jones news agency, China UnionPay Co. president Rod Xu said on Thursday that some foreign banks have been granted the right to issue UnionPay cards in China.

Xu did not tell which foreign banks have been approved, and also did not disclose a timetable when those banks would issue the cards, but he said that now the preparations for credit cards issuing are proceeding smoothly by China UnionPay Co. and these foreign banks together.

The Shanghai-located China UnionPay Co. was founded in 2002, and is the only bank card payment network in China. According to the company's Web site, China UnionPay has issued 1.5 billion cards and extended its network to 26 countries as at the end of 2007. It has also set up strategic partnership with 11 Chinese Banks and 18 International Companies, such as China's Industrial and Commercial Bank(ICBC) and the United States' Citibank.

Until now there are no foreign banks allowed to issued UnionPay cards in China.

Xu also said that China UnionPay Co. is planning to expand its overseas network to 30 countries. But it's still much smaller than Visa Inc., which has set its network in 170 countries and regions.