China’s research and Survey vessel, Yuan Wang 5 has continued to proceed toward Sri Lanka’s port of Hambantota even though the island’s authorities asked Beijing to defer the visit, reported ANI citing local media. On Tuesday, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested China defer the vessel’s visit. However, on that same day, Yuan Wang 5 increased its speed and reached a point around 600 nautical miles away from Hambantota.

Media reports had stated last night that the vessel is said to have slowed down abruptly to a speed of 5 knots and changed its direction to the Andaman Islands. But, On Wednesday, Yuan Wang 5 returned to its original course. This came after on Monday, Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry requested the Chinese vessel Yuan Wang 5 be scheduled to dock at the Chinese-leased Hambantota port on August 11 for refuelling and leave on August 17.

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry had even stated that it wishes to reaffirm the enduring friendship and excellent relations with China which are on a solid foundation. The strong bilateral ties between China and Sri Lanka were also reiterated on August 4 by the two Foreign Ministers Ali Sabry and Wang Yi at a bilateral meeting in Phnom Penh.

China said it ‘fully respects coastal countries’ jurisdiction

While reacting to varying media reports regarding Yuan Wang 5, China’s Foreign Ministry had said that Beijing “always exercises freedom of the high seas in accordance with law and fully respects coastal countries’ jurisdiction over scientific research activities in waters under their jurisdiction.” The mainland also called on “relevant parties” to see the marine scientific research activities in a rational light and stop the disruption of normal exchange and cooperation between Colombo and Beijing.

“It is completely unjustified for certain countries to cite the so-called “security concerns” to pressure Sri Lanka,” it said.

China’s Yuan Wang 5 is a designated research and survey vessel and was built in 2007. With a carrying capacity of 11,000 tonnes, the ship conducted satellite research in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean during the reported visit to a crucial port in Sri Lanka. However, the vessel’s course sparked security concerns in India as Hambantota port is located around 250 kilometres from Sri Lanka’s capital. Remarkably, it is built with a high-interest loan from China while Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis as it struggles to pay back debt taken from Beijing.

Image: AP