The Foreign Ministry communicated to the Chinese Embassy in Colombo on 8 August to postpone the visit of the Chinese research vessel Yuan Wang 5 to Hambantota Port.The ship was en route from China and was scheduled to arrive at the Hambantota Port on 11 August.
In this backdrop, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said it is “completely unjustified” for certain countries to cite so-called “security concerns” to put pressure on
Diplomatic clearance for the Chinese vessel to make acall at the Hambantota Port from 11-17 Augustfor replenishment purposes was conveyed by the Ministry to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo on 12 July, which the Government approved. Subsequently, in light of the need for further consultations, the Ministry has communicated to the Embassy of China in Colombo to defer the visit of the said vessel to the Hambantota Port, the Foreign Ministry said.
The Yuan Wang 5 vessel belongs to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF).
Wenbin, at the media briefingin Shanghai on 8 August, urged the relevant parties to see China’s marine scientific research activities in a rational light and stop disrupting normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka.
He said they have noted relevant reports and stressed on two points. First, he said Sri Lanka is a transportation hub in the Indian Ocean. Scientific research vessels from various countries including China have made port calls in Sri Lanka for replenishment. “China 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.”
Secondly, he said, Sri Lanka is a sovereign country. “It has the right to develop relations with other countries based on its development interests.To have normal cooperation is the independent choice made by our two countries. It serves the shared interests of both sides and does not target any third party. It is completely unjustified for certain countries to cite the so-called ‘security concerns’ to pressure Sri Lanka.As Sri Lanka grapples with economic and political difficulties, to grossly interfere in Sri Lanka’s normal exchanges and cooperation with other countries is to exploit its vulnerability, which is morally irresponsible and against the basic norms governing international relations.”
The postponement of the vessel entering the Southern port of Hambantota comes amid India making a formal submission to Colombo about an impending security threat to India if such a military platform is allowed to enter the Indian Ocean Region and dock for seven days at the Southern port.
On 4 August, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met at the bilateral meeting in Cambodia, where Minister Sabry said he had reassured the Chinese of the enduring friendship and excellent relations between Sri Lanka and China which remain on a solid foundation. Minister Sabry referred to Sri Lanka’s firm commitment to the OneChina policy, which has been a consistent principle in the country’s foreign policy.
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan