Despite protests from Washington and Delhi, Sri Lankan officials have u-turned on their decision to defer the docking of a Chinese military ship, Yuan Wang 5, and have instead welcomed the vessel.
Whilst the ship was initially scheduled to arrive at the Chinese-owned port on 11 August, following pressure from India, Sri Lanka officials had agreed to indefinitely defer the vessel, which Indian officials accused of being a “spy ship”. New Delhi has refuted claims that Sri Lanka was pressured into this initial deferral.
Chinese officials rebuked India’s interference claiming it was “morally reprehensible” and maintaining that the vessel was a “scientific research ship”.
Upon arrival on at Hambantota Port today, former state minister Sarath Weerasekara welcomed its arrival maintaining that he was in favour of the Chinese request.
Permission granted for t Chinese Survey ship to enter Hambantota Port for replenishment.
— Sarath Weerasekera (@ReAdSarath) August 13, 2022
Despite his support of the expedition, he was reportedly snubbed by the captain of the ship, Zhang Hongwang, who refused to shake his hand and denied him entry to the vessel.
Weerasekara was amongst five senior MPs who greeted the ship during a ceremonial welcome. The proceedings saw a red banner unfurl reading, “Long live China and Sri Lanka friendship”. It comes just a day after India gifted a Dornier marine surveillance aircraft to Sri Lanka to enhance its “security capabilities”.
Sri Lanka’s foreign affairs ministry has explained the deferment of the vessel by stating: “having considered all material in place, on 13 August 2022, the clearance to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China was conveyed for the deferred arrival of the vessel from 16-22 August 2022.”
Chinese spy vessel Yuan Wang 5 docks at Sri Lankan port of Hambantota this morning. pic.twitter.com/hkO5N8suJ7
— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) August 16, 2022
This meant that despite protest, the ship was only delayed five days. US and Indian fears that Hambantota port may be used as a military base for China have not been addressed by Sri Lankan officials.