Colombo:- China’s ambassador to Sri Lanka on Tuesday downplayed the controversy over the arrival of a high-tech Chinese research ship at the southern port of Hambantota, calling such visits “very natural”. The ship ‘Yuan Wang 5’, capable of detecting ballistic missiles and satellites, reached the southern port of Hambantota at 8:20 am local time.
It will stay there till August 22.
The ship was to reach the port on August 11 as per schedule, but was delayed due to delay in clearance by the Sri Lankan authorities. Amidst India’s concerns, Sri Lanka had asked China to postpone its visit. On Saturday, Colombo allowed the ship to come to port from 16 to 22 August.
Sri Lanka said security clearance was granted from the Ministry of Defense for the vessel’s visit for replenishment purposes during the stipulated period. Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Qi Zhenhong, was present at the port to welcome the ship. Several MPs from the detached group of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party were also present during this.
When asked about the visit, he told reporters, “It is very natural for such a research ship to visit Sri Lanka. A similar ship came here in 2014 as well.” Asked about Indian concerns, the envoy said, “I don’t know, you should ask Indian friends.
The security of the ship was very strict and no one was allowed to board it. Sri Lanka’s decision to postpone the yatra caused much controversy in the country as the yatra was approved in mid-July. On the ship’s arrival, Cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunawardhan said that the issue has been resolved amicably.
“Relations with all countries are important for us,” Gunavardhan said in a statement here, adding that security and cooperation in the neighborhood is the top priority in dealing with the issue of the Chinese ship Wang Yang 5.
India has traditionally taken a tough stand on Chinese military ships in the Indian Ocean and has protested to Sri Lanka over such visits in the past. Tensions between India and Sri Lanka escalated in 2014 after Colombo allowed a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to stop in one of its ports.