COLOMBO: With the replacement of pro-Chinese Mahinda Rajapaksa by Maithripala Sirisena as President of Sri Lanka, the United States has begun weaning Lanka away from China’s maritime security net.
“The United States and Sri Lanka are working together to oppose intimidation or the use of force to assert territorial or maritime claims,” the US State Department’s Deputy Spokesman, Jeff Rathke, said in Washington on Tuesday.
In the context of China’s aggressive posturing in the South China Sea and American concerns over similar power projections by the Chinese in the Indian Ocean,
Rathke further said “We support Sri Lanka’s efforts to contribute to maritime security and to fulfill its important role as a leading maritime nation in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Further, the spokesman quoted Secretary of State John Kerry as saying that the “leadership” of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region, is with the US.
When Kerry was in Colombo early this month, he praised the Lankan armed forces for its professionalism, and urged Lanka to help shoulder international responsibilities in peace keeping, anti-piracy and disaster management.
The US is wary about China’s alleged bid to turn the ports it is building in Lanka and other countries in the region into a string of military bases. Presently, the Chinese have exclusive use of a section of the Colombo and Humbantota harbors, which it has built.