Sri Lanka opposition urges government to clear its stand on delaying Chinese ship's arrival

Sri Lanka reportedly told China to defer the arrival of its space and satellite tracking research vessel 'Yuan Wang 5' which was scheduled to dock at the Hambantota Port from August 11 to 17.

Published: 08th August 2022 08:41 PM  |   Last Updated: 08th August 2022 08:41 PM   |  A+A-

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe  (Photo | AP)

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe (Photo | AP)

By PTI

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's opposition party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna on Monday demanded the government come clean on deferring the docking of a high-tech Chinese ship at the strategic Hambantota Port after India's objection, saying people fear that the country could be dragged into a "war-like situation".

Sri Lanka reportedly told China to defer the arrival of its space and satellite tracking research vessel 'Yuan Wang 5' which was scheduled to dock at the Hambantota Port from August 11 to 17 due to security concerns expressed by India.

"We do not know the position of the government on this. We have seen an unnamed foreign ministry official sending a letter," JVP Politburo member Sunil Handunneththi told reporters.

He was referring to a third-person note from the foreign ministry to the Chinese embassy in Colombo dated August 5 which said: "the ministry wishes to request that the arrival of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota be deferred until further consultations are made on the matter".

Yuan Wang 5 was to arrive at the Hambantota Port for a 6-day visit.

The ship has the capability to track the satellite and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

According to media reports here, India informed Sri Lanka that the docking of the high-tech Chinese research vessel could pose a threat to its national security.

Sri Lanka received strong messages of protest from India as the ship was said to have the capability to track satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles, the reports said.

Handunneththi said both India and China were Sri Lanka's friends, but "people fear that our country could be dragged into a war-like situation".

So, either President Ranil Wickremesinghe or Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena must make clear the government's stand on the issue.

Gunawardena recently said Sri Lanka was looking forward to settling the issue of the vessel's visit with an "approach of friendship".

Veteran politician Vasudeva Nanayakkara alleged that it was the pressure from the US which forced Sri Lanka to ask for a postponement of the ship's visit.

On July 12, Sri Lanka granted approval for the vessel to dock at Hambantota Port.

The southern deep-sea port of Hambantota, developed largely with Chinese loans, is considered strategically important for its location.

The ties between India and Sri Lanka came under strain after Colombo gave permission to a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to dock at one of its ports in 2014.

India's concerns have been focused on Hambantota Port in particular.

In 2017, Colombo leased the southern port to China Merchant Port Holdings for 99 years, after Sri Lanka was unable to keep its loan repayment commitments, sparking fears over the potential use of the port for military purposes.



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