Sri Lanka is asking China to postpone a military ship’s visit following India’s protests

Sri Lanka is asking China to postpone a military ship’s visit following India’s protests

A naval officer stands in front of the national flags of India and Sri Lanka while the Indian Coast Guard (ICGS) vessel Shoor is in Colombo port during its visit to Colombo, Sri Lanka April 2, 2018. Portal/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

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COLOMBO, Aug 8 (Portal) – Sri Lanka said on Monday it had asked China to postpone a Chinese ship’s planned visit to the island nation after initially authorizing its arrival this week, acknowledging diplomatic pressure from the neighbour India after keeping the military ship off.

The Yuan Wang 5 was due to arrive Thursday at the Chinese-built and leased port of Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka for five days of replenishment. According to Refinitiv Eikon, it is currently sailing in the eastern Indian Ocean.

Foreign security analysts describe the Yuan Wang 5 as one of China’s next-generation space-tracking vessels, used to monitor satellite, missile and ICBM launches. The Pentagon says the Yuan Wang ships are operated by the People’s Liberation Army’s Strategic Support Force.

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New Delhi fears its larger and more powerful rival China will use Hambantota as a military base in India’s backyard. The $1.5 billion port is close to the main shipping route from Asia to Europe.

The Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on July 12 it had approved the ship’s arrival for that month.

“Considering the need for further consultations, the ministry subsequently notified the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo to postpone the said ship’s visit to the port of Hambantota,” the ministry said in a statement.

India said late last month it was monitoring the ship’s planned visit, adding that New Delhi would protect its security and economic interests. India also lodged a verbal protest with the Sri Lankan government. Continue reading

Asked about the controversy surrounding the ship, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a regular news conference that China’s relations with Sri Lanka “are not aimed at third parties”.

Relations between India and China have been strained since at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed in armed clashes on their Himalayan border two years ago.

Both China and India have sought to expand their influence in Sri Lanka, which is facing the worst economic crisis in its independent history, although India has given it more aid than any other nation this year. Continue reading

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Additional reporting by Martin Pollard in Beijing; Writing from Krishna N. Das; Editing by David Gregorio

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