The Chinese foreign ministry expressed its displeasure with Colombo’s decision to revoke the authorization previously granted to the vessel Yuan Wang 5 to call at Hambantota on Monday and said it was “completely unjustified for certain countries” to use security concerns as leverage against Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan side responded by clarifying its position.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) uses the third-generation Yuan Wang 5 vessel to track satellites and ballistic missiles in its arsenal. Earlier plans called for the vessel, which is outfitted with advanced radars and surveillance tools, to make a refuelling stop at China-controlled Hambantota port on August 11. The 2007-built Yuan Wang 5 was built with a carrying capacity of 11,000 tonnes and is designated as a research and survey vessel.
“Subsequently in light of the need for further consultations, the Ministry has communicated to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo to defer the visit of the said vessel to the Hambantota port,” it said.
Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry reaffirmed the “enduring friendship and excellent relations between Sri Lanka and China which remain on a solid foundation, as reiterated most recently by the two Foreign Ministers Ali Sabry and Wang Yi at a bilateral meeting in Phonm Penh, Cambodia, on 4 August, 2022,” the statement said.
Its potential to undertake satellite research in the northwest corner of the Indian Ocean during this critical visit to the crucial port in Sri Lanka has India worried about its security. Built with high-interest Chinese financing, Hambantota Port is around 250 kilometres from Colombo. A 99-year lease on the port was given to the Chinese after the Sri Lankan government struggled to pay back the debt it had borrowed from China.