Chinese military ship docks at Sri Lanka port despite Indian concerns

Chinese military survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 arrives at Hambantota International Port in Hambantota, Sri Lanka August 16, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer

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COLOMBO, Aug 16 (Reuters) – A Chinese military survey vessel docked at the Chinese-built Sri Lankan port of Hambantota on Tuesday after a days-long delay due to opposition to India’s visit , which is vying with China for influence in the Sri Lanka crisis.

India has objected to the docking of the Yuan Wang 5, which analysts describe as a high-tech vessel for tracking objects in space, over concerns that China will use the port, near of the main Asia-Europe sea route, as a military base.

Sri Lanka, which needs support from India and China as it battles its worst economic crisis in decades, initially granted the ship permission for a five-day resupply stay in Hambantota , from August 11.

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He then asked China to delay the ship’s arrival, citing the need for more consultations. Read more

The Yuan Wang 5 will only dock for three days to refuel, food and other essentials, said a port official who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to media.

A Sri Lankan government minister said the island nation was working to ensure there was no friction between friendly countries.

“India has expressed its concerns and Sri Lanka has requested a postponement of the docking of the vessel until discussions can take place to resolve these issues,” Media Minister Bandula Gunawardana told reporters. .

“Even before that, ships from the United States, India and other countries came to Sri Lanka. We allowed those ships to come. In the same way, we allowed the Chinese ship to dock.”

China Merchant Port Operations (0144.HK) signed a 99-year lease in 2017 to operate Hambantota deepwater port.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the Chinese ship did not interfere with any other country.

“Yuan Wang 5 conducting maritime research activities … does not affect the security or economic interests of any country and third parties should not interfere with it,” he said in Beijing.

Foreign security analysts say the Yuan Wang 5 is one of China’s latest-generation space tracking vessels, used to monitor launches of satellites, rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Pentagon says the Yuan Wang ships are operated by the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force.

Prior to the ship’s arrival, India gave the Sri Lankan Air Force a Dornier 228 aircraft for maritime surveillance.

At a handover ceremony, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe called it the start of maritime surveillance cooperation between his country’s Navy and Air Force and the Indian Navy.

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Reporting by Uditha Jayasinghe in Colombo; Written by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Krishna N. Das; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Clarence Fernandez

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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