Chinese survey vessel docks in Sri Lanka after diplomatic stalemate | Politics News
Yuan Wang 5 arrives at the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka after a delay due to concerns reported by India and the United States.
A Chinese research vessel has docked in a Sri Lankan port after a delay of several days, apparently due to concerns raised by India and the United States.
The Yuan Wang 5 entered the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka on Tuesday morning and was greeted by Chinese diplomats and port officials, according to the Colombo Gazette.
The satellite tracking vessel was originally scheduled to arrive at the port of Hambantota, a facility built and leased by Chinese companies and located at the southern tip of Sri Lanka, on August 11.
But the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry postponed the resupply visit for five days on August 8, citing “some concerns” apparently due to protests from New Delhi and Washington, according to media reports.
Reuters news agency, citing a government source, said India opposed visiting the vessel, with Indian media describing the 730ft (222.5m) vessel as a dual-purpose spy vessel. The Pentagon, in its latest report on the Chinese military, said the Yuan Wang ships are operated by the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force. He said the ships can be used to monitor satellite, rocket and ballistic missile launches.
India’s foreign ministry, however, dismissed reports that it pressured Sri Lanka to return the Yuan Wang.
Arindam Bagchi, spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said on Friday that “we categorically reject ‘insinuation’ and such a statement about India.” He added: “Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and makes its own decisions independently.”
The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that US officials had also lobbied against the ship’s planned visit.
Quoting a Sri Lankan government official, the Post said a Chinese navy vessel arriving at Hambantota was not strategically important, but Indian and US officials argued it would be “considered the Sri Lanka giving special treatment to China, a major creditor”. at a time when the country is grappling with the worst economic crisis in its history and is trying to renegotiate its international debt.
China, which vies for influence in Sri Lanka, is the country’s biggest creditor and has provided the country with billions of dollars for development projects in the past, including the construction of the port of Hambantota. Sri Lanka has since struggled to repay the loans, and in 2017 handed over the $1.5 billion port’s business operations to a Chinese company for 99 years in exchange for debt relief. At the time, the move raised fears in India that China could use the port as a military base.
There has been no official US comment on the Post’s claims.
Amid the diplomatic standoff, the Yuang Wang 5 reportedly reduced speed and turned back at sea, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was “completely unjustified for some countries to invoke the so-called “security concerns” to put pressure on Sri Lanka”.
He also urged “relevant parties to view China’s marine scientific research activities in a rational light and stop disrupting normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka.”
In the end, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday that it had authorized a stopover.
The ministry said in a statement that it had “engaged in extensive high-level consultations through diplomatic channels with all parties concerned.”
The vessel would be allowed to remain in Sri Lanka until August 22, he said, provided it retains its identification systems and does not carry out any research activities in the country’s waters.
He added that his intention was to “safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries” and was grateful for the support of partners at a time when the country was trying to overcome its serious economic challenges.