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China seeks urgent meeting with Sri Lanka over ‘research’ ship’s visit

Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang 5

China has sought an urgent meeting with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremasinghe after Colombo deferred the docking of Chinese ship 'Yuan Wang 5' at the Hambantota port over India's concerns.

The Hindu says that Qi Zhenhong, the Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka reportedly met President Ranil Wickremesinghe on the weekend to discuss the controversy over the arrival of a Chinese vessel. He has already met the Sri Lankan president twice this week after Colombo decided to postpone the ship's visit.

The Chinese ship was initially supposed to dock at the Hambantota Port on August 11 for carrying out research on space and satellite tracking. The military vessel had planned to stay for a week for "replenishment" as well as conduct satellite control and research tracking in the Indian Ocean region till September.

A concerned India fearing for its defence and economic interests in the region reportedly told the island nation that this could pose a threat to India's national security. Colombo had handed over the Hambantota Port to China after it could not pay the huge debt to Chinese companies incurred over the construction of the $1.5 billion port.

The Hindu report said that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had taken up the issue with his Sri Lankan counterpart Ali Sabry at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia last week.

Even Sri Lankan opposition parties have supported India at a time when it is the only country to have provided humanitarian aid to Colombo during its worst-ever economic and financial crisis.

Sri Lanka even tried to deflect the criticism with the Ministry of Defence saying, “such vessels periodically come from various countries such as India, China, Japan, Australia” and such a visit was “nothing unusual.”

Sri Lanka had once allowed a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to dock at a port in 2014 leading to fears in India that such moves could infuse instability in the region.

Read More: Sri Lanka asks China to defer visit of military ship to Hambantota port after India objects