Colombo, Aug 16 (EFE).- A Chinese research ship arrived at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port on Tuesday, despite India’s security fears over the “spy vessel” capable of monitoring satellite, rocket, and intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
The port management prepared a welcoming ceremony for the vessel, which will stay in the Chinese-run second biggest port in Sri Lanka until Aug.22.
Sri Lanka leased the newly built Hambantota port to China for 99 years in 2017.
The Indian ocean island nation falls along the key shipping route between the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal, which links Asia and Europe.
An estimated 36,000 ships, including 4,500 oil tankers, use the maritime route annually.
The ship was scheduled to dock in Sri Lanka from Aug.11 to 17.
But the island authorities requested China to defer the port call after India and the United States raised concerns that the vessel could monitor naval activities in the region.
Cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunawardena told reporters they had given the vessel the go-ahead to dock after allaying the concerns raised by the countries.
“Military vessels from the US, the UK, Pakistan, India, and China have come to Sri Lanka earlier. Permission is given if there are no issues to a second party,” Gunawardena said.
“India raised some issues (on the Yuan Wang 5) and till discussions regarding that were over, Sri Lanka asked China to defer the entry.”
The spokesperson said diplomatic ties with all countries were crucial to Sri Lanka and have helped the country in the past.
In a statement, the foreign ministry said China first informed Sri Lanka about its plans to dock the vessel in the country’s waters on June 28.
“The ministry wishes to reiterate Sri Lanka’s policy of cooperation and friendship with all countries. Security and cooperation in the neighbourhood is of the utmost priority,” the ministry statement said.
“It is Sri Lanka’s intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with its international obligations.”
Amid the controversy surrounding the Chinese “spy” vessel, India gifted a maritime patrol aircraft to Sri Lanka on Monday.
The Sri Lanka Air Force said it was the first Indian Naval Dornier inducted into its fleet.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Navy Ship Taimur that arrived at Colombo’s Port left Monday after a ‘successful conduct of a Passage Exercise,’ the Sri Lanka Navy said. EFE