Chinese Ship Docking Creates Political Stir

Story Highlights
  • Chinese research vessel Yuan Wang 5 docks at Hambantota the southern port of Sri Lanka.
  • Chinese ambassadors describe Yuang Wang 5’s visit as a normal exchange between China and Sri Lanka.
  • India suspicious of Beijing's Influence in the Indian Ocean and calls the vessel a dual-purpose spying ship.

Sri Lanka: Despite objections from India and the US regarding its alleged spying activities, a Chinese research vessel docked at Hambantota, the southern port of Sri Lanka that is run by China, on Tuesday.

According to port officials, the Yuan Wang 5 entered the deep-sea port after receiving permission to enter Sri Lankan waters on the condition that it wouldn’t conduct any research.

 The visit was initially scheduled to come last week as Colombo requested Beijing to postpone the visit after India objected since it shares Western concerns about Chinese actions in the region. Nevertheless, on Saturday, following prolonged discussions, Sri Lanka made a U-turn, announcing that permission had been restored to dock at Hambantota and the ship will remain there for six days in order to refuel and bring in additional supplies.

Sri Lankan Government spokeswoman Bandula Gunawardana told reporters, “We are providing the same (port) amenities that we provide to all other countries.” “All of these nations are important to us.” Yuan Wang 5’s visit was described by the Chinese ambassador Qi Zhenhong to Sri Lanka as a “normal exchange between the two countries.” At a ceremony to welcome the ship, Qi told reporters, “China and Sri Lanka enjoy outstanding friendship.

 The Yuan Wang 5 was listed as a research and survey ship on shipping analytics websites, but Indian media reports that it is actually a dual-purpose spying ship. India is suspicious of Beijing’s expanding influence in the Indian Ocean and in Sri Lanka since it considers both to be firmly within its area of influence. Further  India gave Sri Lanka a Dornier 228 surveillance aircraft a day before the ship arrived in an effort to improve the island’s capacity for maritime monitoring.

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