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China ‘highly appreciates’ Sri Lankan declaration not to renegotiate port deal

The Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka said it “highly appreciates” a statement from Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who declared his government would not renegotiate a deal over the Hambantota Port, which was handed to China on a 99-year lease in 2017.

Rajapaksa stressed that the deal was a commercial agreement and though his government would not renegotiate it, they would be examining the security of the port to see if additional clauses are needed in their agreement.

The Hambantota Port has been cited as an example of the dangers of 'debt-trap diplomacy’, with the inability of the Sri Lankan government to repay the debt owed for the building of the port, leading to increasing concessions to its debtors. In this case, the port was handed over to the Chinese.

At the time, with nearly all government revenue going to debt servicing, the port was sold as part of Sri Lanka’s strategy to pay down some of its debt, estimated to be around $65bn (USD), including $8bn to China.

See more from The South China Morning Post here and from Xinhua here.