Colombo: Sri Lanka on Monday confirmed that it has communicated to China to defer the visit of Chinese vessel Yuang Wang 5 to Hambantota port.
In a statement, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said the Chinese vessel Yuan Wang 5 was scheduled to dock at Chinese-leased Hambantota port on August 11 for refuelling and leave on August 17.
“The Ministry has communicated to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo to defer the visit of the said vessel to the Hambantota port,” it read.
The Foreign Ministry further stated it wishes to reaffirm the enduring friendship and excellent relations between Sri Lanka and China which remain on a solid foundation, as reiterated most recently by the two Foreign Ministers Ali Sabry and Wang Yi at a bilateral meeting in Phnom Penh on August 4.
“At this first meeting between the two Foreign Ministers, Minister Sabry referred to Sri Lanka’s firm commitment to the one-China policy which has been a consistent principle in the country’s foreign policy,” the statement read further.
Meanwhile, reacting to the media reports over the vessel, the Chinese foreign ministry said that Beijing “always exercises freedom of the high seas in accordance with law and fully respects coastal countries’ jurisdiction over scientific research activities in waters under their jurisdiction.”
China also urged “relevant parties” to see its marine scientific research activities in a rational light and stop disrupting normal exchange and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka.
“It is completely unjustified for certain countries to cite the so-called “security concerns” to pressure Sri Lanka,” it said.
India had expressed its security concerns over the docking of the vessel at Hambantota as it was shown as a research vessel while the spy ship can map the ocean bed which is critical to anti-submarine operations of the Chinese Navy.
Designated as a research and survey vessel, Yuan Wang 5 was built in 2007 and has a carrying capacity of 11,000 tonnes.
During this significant visit to the key Sri Lankan port, it could conduct satellite research in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean region, prompting security concerns for India.
Hambantota port, located around 250 kms from Colombo was built with high-interest Chinese loans. The Sri Lankan government struggled to repay the debt they had taken from China following which the port was handed over to the Chinese on a 99-year lease.