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Chinese spy ship to dock at Hambantota amidst Indian US concerns

Even as China’s spy ship ‘Yuan Wang 5’ is back on course towards the Hambantota Port of Sri Lanka, India is set to gift the island nation a Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft soon, subtly reasserting its role as the net security provider to the Indian Ocean region.

New Delhi had over the past couple of weeks repeatedly conveyed its its concerns over the arrival of the ship in the Indian Ocean nation,

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had on August 5 written to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo, requesting for postponement of the visit of the ship until further consultations between the two sides.

Later it has asked India to inform them in writing about the threat that will be caused to India by the entry of the Chinese ship into SriLanka.

Indian Authorities are still to respond to this request,official sources said, adding that the Sri Lanka President has not opposed the move to allow entry of the ship.

President Ranil Wickremasinghe has requested the US Ambassador Julie Chung at a meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe to provide firm reasons for opposing the ship’s arrival in writing when she expressed her concerns on the matter.

The same message was conveyed to Indian diplomats by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry on Tuesday. But they were keeping mom without responding to the request. , a top foreign ministry official said.

.The ship is one of the four currently used by the Strategic Support Force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to track satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The ‘Yuan Wang 5’ is now likely to dock at Hambantota Port on August 16 – five days after it was originally scheduled to arrive at the port Sri Lanka leased out to China Merchant Ports, a state-owned company of the communist country, in 2016.

“Security and cooperation in the neighbourhood are of utmost priority,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Sri Lankan government said in a statement in Colombo on Saturday, after giving its nod for the arrival of the ship in Hambantota Port.

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has allowed the Harbour Master to grant permission to the Chinese ballistic missile- and satellite-tracking vessel Yuan Wang 5 to dock at the Hambantota Port from August 16 – 12.

It is reported that Colombo initially granted permission for the vessel to dock at Hambantota on July 12, a day before former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country giving in to months-long protests.

The much-disputed 730-foot-long ship was initially scheduled to dock at the Hambantota Port between August 11 and 17, however, Sri Lanka made a request from Beijing to defer the arrival.

The request for deferment came after India voiced strong concerns on the matter and said it carefully monitors any developments having a bearing on its security and economic interests, and takes all necessary to safeguard them.

China, in response to India’s concerns, said it hoped “relevant parties” would refrain from interfering with its legitimate maritime activities and stressed that it was “senseless to pressure” Colombo by citing the issue of security concerns.

As diplomatic tensions were growing, Sri Lanka clarified that permission and clearance were given to the Chinese vessel for “replenishment”. The vessel will conduct satellite control and research tracking in the north-western part of the Indian Ocean region through August and September, the Sri Lankan government said further.

Meanwhile, India on Friday (Aug 12) categorically rejected insinuation by China which claimed that Sri Lanka’s neighbour is pressuring the island nation over Chinese ballistic missile and satellite-tracking vessel’s planned visit to Hambantota.

Amidst the row over the Chinese vessel, Sri Lanka allowed a Pakistani warship PNS Taimur to make a port call in Colombo on Friday. According to Sri Lanka Navy, this Pakistani-guided missile frigate built by Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai, is in Colombo for a formal visit.

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