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Chinese ship docks in Sri Lanka despite India and US concerns

#Chinese #ship #docks #Sri #Lanka #India #concerns

A Chinese research vessel docked in Sri Lanka’s Chinese-run southern port of Hambantota on Tuesday despite concerns from India and the United States over its alleged espionage activities.

The Yuan Wang 5 entered the deep sea port after securing permission to enter Sri Lankan waters on the condition that it would not conduct research, port officials said.

It was originally due to arrive last week, but Colombo asked Beijing to postpone the visit after objections were raised by India, which shares Western concerns about Chinese activity in the region.

But on Saturday, after intense negotiations, Colombo announced a U-turn, saying the ship had been given permission to dock at Hambantota and stay for six days to refuel and take on other supplies.

Dispatch analysis websites described the Yuan Wang 5 as a research and survey ship, but according to Indian media it is a dual-use spy ship.

There was no usual military band to greet the ship, but a small group of traditional Kandy dancers and drummers performing on a red carpet.

Also at the port were five lawmakers, but no senior politicians or other dignitaries were present.

“Long live the friendship between China and Sri Lanka,” read a red-and-white banner on an upper deck of the ship, which featured at least four satellite dishes pointed skyward.

Men in white shirts and black pants stood on deck waving Chinese and Sri Lankan flags as the ship was wheeled alongside the main jetty.

The port of Hambantota has been operated by the Chinese since 2017, when they leased it for 99 years for US$1.12 billion, less than the US$1.4 billion Sri Lanka paid a Chinese firm to build .

New Delhi is wary of Beijing’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka, both of which are firmly within its sphere of influence.

Both India and the US have raised safety concerns about the ship’s visit to Sri Lanka, and New Delhi filed a complaint with Colombo.

China said it was “completely unjustified for certain countries” to pressure Sri Lanka with “security concerns”, especially at a time when the island is facing an unprecedented economic crisis.

“We urge the relevant parties to rationalize China’s marine scientific research activities,” said a Chinese official before Colombo granted permission for the port call.

A day before the ship’s arrival, India donated a Dornier 228 surveillance aircraft to Sri Lanka to bolster the island’s maritime surveillance capabilities.

The Chinese ship was allowed to enter the port on the condition that it keep its automatic identification system (AIS) on while in Sri Lankan waters and not conduct scientific research.

According to Indian reports, the Yuan Wang 5 could be used for space and satellite detection and is specifically used in the launch of ICBMs.

– Chinese Debt –

Sri Lanka borrowed heavily from China between 2005 and 2015, and in 2017 relinquished control of the port of Hambantota, which is on key east-west shipping routes.

Sri Lanka said it could not afford to pay back China to build the port and handed over the facility on a 99-year lease.

China is Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor and owns over 10 percent of the island’s external debt.

Beijing’s support is crucial for Colombo to restructure its external debt and qualify for an International Monetary Fund bailout.

On August 4, President Ranil Wickremesinghe “reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s firm commitment to the one-China policy” after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan and called for “mutual respect and non-interference in the countries’ internal affairs.”

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