"The construction of the airport... will create a network to connect air transportation for the whole region," the site said, announcing premier Nguyen Tan Dung's approval in principle for the project.

Earlier media reports said building the Long Thanh airport, about 50 kilometres (35 miles) from downtown, could cost up to 10 billion dollars, although the government did not give the scale of investment.

According to an earlier report in Ho Chi Minh City's Phap Luat (Law) newspaper, the airport could annually handle 52 million passengers and 1.5 million tonnes of cargo by 2035.

This would help ease overcrowding at southern Tan Son Nhat airport, currently the country's largest, which accommodates 12 million passengers and 278,000 tonnes of cargo per year.

Agence France Presse - April 26, 2011