Sri Lanka last week buckled under pressure from India and requested China to defer the visit of its spy ship ‘Yuan Wang 5’ to the Hambantota Port of the island nation

After New Delhi persuaded Colombo to indefinitely defer the visit of a reconnaissance ship of China to the Hambantota Port in southern Sri Lanka, Beijing on Monday tacitly asked India to desist from “disturbing normal exchanges and cooperation” between the communist country and the Indian Ocean island nation.

Beijing dismissed as “senseless” India’s security concerns over the proposed visit of China’s ‘Yuan Wang 5’ vessel to Sri Lanka.

“The cooperation of China and Sri Lanka is independently chosen by the two countries and does not target third parties,” Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of China, told journalists in Beijing. “Citing the concept of security concerns is senseless to pressure Sri Lanka,” he said, tacitly hitting out at India.

Sri Lanka last week buckled under pressure from India and requested China to defer the visit of its spy ship ‘Yuan Wang 5’ to the Hambantota Port of the island nation.

“I would like to reiterate two points. Sri Lanka is a transportation hub in the Indian Ocean. Many scientific exploration ships including from China have stopped in the ports of Sri Lanka for supplies,” Wang said while briefing media-persons in Beijing. “China always exercised freedom of navigation in the high seas and fully respects jurisdiction of coastal states of scientific exploration activities within their jurisdiction waters.”

The Yuan Wang 5 is one of the four of its class used by the Strategic Support Force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to track satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles. It of late sailed from a port in China and was scheduled to dock at the Hambantota Port of Sri Lanka from August 11 to 17 next. But its arrival has now been indefinitely deferred, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Sri Lankan government writing to the Embassy of People’s Republic of China in Colombo, requesting to postpone its visit until further consultations between the two sides.

The Embassy of India in Colombo over the past few days took up the issue with the office of the Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Ministry of Defence of the Sri Lankan government, however, sought to play down New Delhi’s concerns, stating that Yuan Wang 5 would dock at Hambantota Port only for refuelling and replenishing its stock of food and other essentials. India, however, continued to convey its concerns to the Sri Lankan government and even reached out to top brass of the Sri Lankan Army and Air Force based near Hambantota Port.

China earlier used its debt-trap diplomacy to force Sri Lanka to lease out the Hambantota Port to one of the state-owned companies of the communist country.

“When Sri Lanka is currently facing economic and political difficulties, grossly interfering with Sri Lanka’s normal foreign exchanges and cooperation is taking advantage of the dangers of others and goes against international morality and basic norms of international relations,” said the Chinese Government’s spokesperson. “China urges relevant parties to view China’s marine scientific research activities rationally and stop interfering with normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka.”

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