Colombo asks Beijing to defer visit of spy ship at Hambantota | World News

The Sri Lankan government has asked the Chinese government to postpone the visit of its space satellite tracker Yuan Wang 5 to Hambantota port “until further consultations” between the two governments. The spy ship was scheduled to dock at the Chinese-leased Hambantota port on August 11 for refueling and depart on August 17.

Designated as a stroke research vessel, the Yuan Wang 5 was built in 2007 and has a carrying capacity of 11,000 tons. The survey ship left Jiangyin, China on July 13 and is currently sailing near Taiwan, where China is conducting live-fire drills as an aggressive stance against Taipei to allow the Speaker of the House of States United, Nancy Pelosi, visit the self-governing island. According to the MarineTraffic website, the ship is currently in the East China Sea between southern Japan and northeastern Taiwan.

According to Colombo-based diplomats, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a memo verbale to the Chinese Embassy referring to a note from the ministry on July 12, 2022, conveying authorizations for the vessel Yuan Wang 5 entered the port of Hambantota with “replenishment purposes”.

India had expressed security concerns over the ship’s docking in Hambantota as it was shown as a research vessel while the spy ship can map the ocean bed, which is critical for anti-submarine operations of the Chinese Navy. The Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka is understood to have approached the Sri Lankan government and said that denying permission to the ship would have an impact on bilateral relations.

While Ranil Wickremesinghe’s cabinet spokesman on August 2 announced that the ship was being allowed to refuel, India’s navy also conveyed its serious security concerns to Colombo. India has stood by Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis facing the island nation and has given more than $3.5 billion in aid in terms of petrol, diesel, natural gas, food and medicines

On August 5, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs deferred permission to allow the spy ship to dock at the Hambantota port and conveyed it in writing to its counterparts in the Chinese Foreign Ministry through the channels proper diplomats.

Sri Lanka’s decision to postpone the spy ship’s visit shows that it respects its neighbor India’s security concerns despite China’s muscle power. Sri Lanka owes more than 10 percent of its external debt to China with Beijing awarded a 99-year lease of Hambantota port by Colombo in 2017.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). K Subrahmanyam Award for Strategic Studies in 2015 by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyzes (MP-IDSA) and Israel’s 2011 Ben Gurion Award.
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