Chinese warship docks in Sri Lanka port despite Indian concerns

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

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COLOMBO (Reuters) – A Chinese military survey ship docked at the Chinese-built Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on Tuesday after a delay of several days due to opposition from India, which is vying with China for influence in crisis-affected areas. Sri Lanka.

India has opposed the mooring of the Yuan Wang 5, which analysts describe as a high-tech space-tracking vessel, because it fears China will use the port, near the main shipping route between Asia and Europe, as a military base.

Sri Lanka, which needs the support of both India and China while grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades, initially granted the ship a five-day permit to resupply at Hambantota, effective August 11.

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China later demanded that the ship’s arrival be delayed, citing the need for further consultations. Read more

A port official who asked not to be identified said he was not authorized to speak to the media, the 5 yuan Wang will now dock for only three days to store fuel, food and other necessities.

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

“India has raised concerns and Sri Lanka has requested a delay in the ship’s docking pending discussions to resolve these issues,” Information Minister Pandula Gunawardana told reporters.

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“Even before that there were ships from the United States, India and other countries coming to Sri Lanka. We let these ships come. In the same way we let the Chinese ship dock.”

China Merchants Port Holdings (0144.HK) It signed a 99-year lease in 2017 to operate the Hambantota deep sea port.

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

“Yuan Wang 5 is carrying out marine research activities… it does not affect any country’s security or economic interests and should not be interfered with by third parties,” he said in Beijing.

Foreign security analysts say the Yuan Wang 5 is one of China’s newest space tracking ships, used to monitor the launch of satellites, missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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

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

At a handover ceremony, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe described it as the beginning of cooperation in maritime surveillance between his country’s naval and air forces and the Indian Navy.

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(Uditha Jayasinghe reports in Colombo); Written by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Krishna In Das; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Clarence Fernandez

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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