Sri Lanka seeks Chinese ship delay after Indian pressure

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has asked China to indefinitely postpone a visit by a ship that Indian media claims is a spy ship, following intense pressure from the island’s northern neighbor, official sources said on Saturday.
The Yuan Wang 5 is en route from the Chinese port of Jiangyin and arrives at the Chinese-operated Sri Lankan port of hambantota on Thursday, according to the analytics website MarineTraffic.
It is described as a research and research vessel, but according to an Indian media report it is a dual-use spy ship, used for space and satellite tracking and with specific use in intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
Indian media reported that New Delhi feared the ship would be used to spy on its activities and that it had filed a complaint with Colombo.

India remains suspicious of China’s growing influence in its southern neighbor Sri Lanka.
India’s foreign ministry said last week that it “will closely monitor any impact on India’s security and economic interests and take all necessary measures to protect them”.
In a written request, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry told the Chinese embassy in Colombo not to proceed with the visit, an official involved in the trial told AFP on Saturday.
“The ministry wants to request that the arrival date of the ship Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota be postponed pending further consultations,” the request reads.
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe assured political party leaders on Friday that the controversial visit will not go ahead as planned.

Earlier this week, Colombo appeared to brush off India’s concerns by saying the ship would only come to refuel and replenish supplies and would not undertake any work in Sri Lankan waters.
India strongly objected when two Chinese submarines docked in Sri Lanka in 2014.
Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose brother Mahinda Rajapaksa borrowed heavily from China while he was president from 2005 to 2015, was forced to resign last month amid the worst-ever economic crisis in Sri Lanka, which is ongoing.

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