China warns ‘third parties’ as vessel docks in Sri Lanka amid India’s concerns

Despite concerns from India and the US about its alleged spying activities, Chinese vessel Yuan Wang 5 bristling with antennas and communication gear docked at Sri Lanka’s Chinese-run port of Hambantota on Tuesday.

Responding to the latest development, China, without mentioning India or the US, said its scientific research activities are in accordance with international law and should not be interfered with by “third parties”.

“China’s scientific research vessel Yuan Wang 5 arrived at Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on Tuesday. Several senior Sri Lankan officials, including representatives of the president, attended the welcoming ceremony hosted by Chinese Ambassador Qi Zhenhong,” state media Global Times quoted a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson as saying.

“After docking, Yuan Wang 5 will take some time to complete the necessary resupply. Its scientific research activities are in accordance with international law and common practice and should not be interfered with by third parties,” he added.

India had opposed the docking of the Yuan Wang 5, which analysts describe as a high-tech ship for tracking objects in space, as it fears China could use the port, near the main Asia-Europe shipping route, as a military base.

Sri Lanka, which needs the support of both India and China as it struggles with its worst economic crisis in decades, initially granted the ship permission for a five-day replenishment stay in Hambantota, from August 11.

It later asked China to delay the vessel’s arrival, citing the need for more consultations.

Yuan Wang 5 will now berth for only three days to stock up on fuel, food and other essentials, said an official at the port who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

A Sri Lankan government minister said the island nation was working to ensure there was no friction between friendly countries.

“India had raised concerns and Sri Lanka requested a delay in the ship’s docking until discussions could be had to resolve these issues,” media minister Bandula Gunawardana told reporters.

“Even before this there have been ships from the US, India and other countries coming to Sri Lanka. We have allowed these ships to come. In the same way, we have allowed the Chinese ship to dock.”

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