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China counters critics of spy ship’s Lanka docking

China counters critics of spy ship’s Lanka docking

China has reacted strongly to Sri Lanka‘s request to delay the visit of its spy vessel Yuan Wang 5, which was due to dock at Hambantota on Thursday for a week. Without naming India, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson described the opposition to the visit as ‘senseless’ and ‘urged’ Colombo to “not disturb normal exchanges” between the two countries.

“We have noted the relevant report,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in response to a question on Sri Lanka’s deferral request. “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. China always exercised freedom of navigation in the high seas and fully respects the jurisdiction of coastal states of scientific exploration activities within their jurisdiction waters.”

Sri Lanka being a sovereign state was free to “develop relations with other countries in the light of its own development interests. The cooperation of China and Sri Lanka is independently chosen by the two countries and does not target third parties. Citing the concept of security concerns is senseless to pressure Sri Lanka”, Wang said. Beijing “urges relevant parties to see China’s scientific exploration in a reasonable and sensible way and stop disturbing normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka,” Wang said, without referring to India by name.

Chinese ambassador Qi Zhenhong had met with president Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday, following the note verbale a day earlier from the Lankan foreign ministry requesting a delay in the visit of the ship until further consultations after India expressed displeasure with Colombo over the presence of the vessel in the island which threatened the security of strategic installations in its southern states.

The military and strategic implications of Chinese spy ship in the Indian Ocean Region are manifold and have major consequences for the Indian security architecture, according to the Indian security establishment. The ship has a distinct role in missile and satellite tracking. Yuan Wang 5’s capabilities are considered lethal compared to Chinese submarines that have docked at Colombo port in 2014. The aerial reach of the ship is more than 750 km and atomic research centres of Kalpakkam and Koodankulam can be snooped upon. The ship can also track ports in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.

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