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Sri Lanka asks China to defer spy ship visit until further talks

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Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry has asked the Chinese embassy in Colombo to defer the planned visit of Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang 5 to a Lankan port until further consultations, close on the heels of India raising concerns over the potential presence of a Chinese military vessel so close.

The military vessel was to dock at Hambantota for what China says is “replenishment and refuelling” from August 11-17. The permission to dock was given by former Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa before he fled the country amid the economic crisis.

“The ministry wishes to request that the arrival date of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota be deferred until further consultations are made on this matter,” the Lankan foreign ministry said in a letter to the Chinese embassy. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Embassy of People’s Republic of China in Colombo, the assurances of its highest consideration.”

India sees the docking of a Chinese military vessel at the Sri Lankan port as a security threat to strategic installations in the southern Indian states.

Earlier, the Lankan MoD had tried to assuage India’s concerns over the matter after New Delhi raised it at various levels, including with the new President, the defence ministry and military officers at Hambantota.

The military and strategic implications of having ‘Yuan Wang 5’ in the Indian Ocean Region are manifold, ET had reported last month.

The ship has a distinct role in missile and satellite tracking and is more lethal in its capabilities compared with the Chinese submarine that was docked at Colombo port in 2014.

The aerial reach of the ship is more than 750 km, which would bring the nuclear plants at Kalpakkam and Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu within snooping distance.

As many as six ports across the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh will come under tracking reach of the vessel if it docks at Hambantota. The ship can also gather information about vital installations along southern India, ET had reported.

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