China’s embassy has sought an urgent meeting with senior Sri Lankan authorities after Colombo sought a deferment of the planned docking of a high-tech Chinese research vessel at the strategic Hambantota port over which India raised concerns, sources said.
The Chinese space and satellite tracking research vessel ‘Yuan Wang 5’ was scheduled to dock at the Hambantota Port from August 11 to 17, weeks after Sri Lanka witnessed a major political turmoil following massive mass protests over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.
A ‘third-person’ note from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry to the Chinese embassy in Colombo dated August 5 says “the ministry wishes to request that the arrival of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota to be deferred until further consultations are made on the matter.” The Chinese embassy in Colombo sought an urgent meeting with the higher Sri Lankan authorities to discuss the issue after receiving the note from the Foreign Ministry seeking a delay in the visit, sources here said.
Some Sri Lankan news portals also reported that Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe held a closed-door meeting with China’s Ambassador Qi Zhenhong after Colombo sought a deferment of the planned docking.
But the President’s Office denied the media reports over the meeting.
On July 12, amidst the political turmoil in Sri Lanka, the then government approved the Chinese vessel’s docking at the Hambantota port.
The Chinese vessel was expected to dock at the Sri Lankan port for “refuelling and ‘replenishment’ and will conduct satellite control and research tracking in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean region through August and September.