Chinese ‘spy ship’ docking: Beijing seeks urgent meeting with Lankan authorities after request to defer plans

NEW DELHI: Back-and-forth between Colombo and Beijing continues over the possibility of a Chinese ‘spy ship’ docking at the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota.
Most recently, China’s Colombo embassy requested an urgent meeting with the island nation’s senior authorities after Colombo sought to indefinitely delay the ship’s planned docking.
India has shared its concerns with Sri Lanka regarding the Chinese satellite and space tracking research vessel Yuan Wang 5 scheduled to dock at Hambantota from 11 to 17 August.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, in a notice to the Chinese Embassy on August 5, said, “The ministry wishes to request a postponement of the sending of the Yuan Wang 5 to Hambantota until further consultations on the matter are made.” this.”
Several Sri Lankan news portals also reported that President Ranil Wickremesinghe held a closed-door meeting with Chinese Ambassador Qi Zhenhong after Colombo sought to delay the planned docking. But the President’s Office denied the reports.
The previous Sri Lankan government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa approved the docking of the Chinese vessel on July 12, just hours before it left the country for the Maldives. At the time, Sri Lanka said the Chinese vessel would dock to “refuel and replenish.”
However, India objected to the approval of Chinese ships with Sri Lanka, citing a threat to the country’s national security. Yuan Wang 5 is a dual-use reconnaissance, research and survey vessel, used for space and satellite tracking and specifically used in intercontinental ballistic missile launches, according to the report.
India says it carefully monitors any developments that affect its security and economic interests. New Delhi is concerned about the possibility that the ship’s tracking system is trying to track Indian facilities while en route to a Sri Lankan port.
The ship is under the control of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of its Strategic Support Force (SSF) unit. SSF focuses on space, cyber and electronic warfare.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena last week said the country wanted to resolve the issue with a “friendly approach”.
India has traditionally taken a strict stance towards Chinese military vessels in the Indian Ocean and has opposed such visits to Sri Lanka in the past.
Relations between India and Sri Lanka became strained after Colombo allowed a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to dock at one of its ports in 2014.
India’s interest is particularly centered on the port of Hambantota. In 2017, Colombo leased the southern port to a Chinese company for 99 years, after Sri Lanka failed to keep its loan repayment commitments, raising concerns about the port’s ability to be used for military purposes.
(With agent input)

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