China’s research ship to dock in Sri Lanka after dayslong delay

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China’s research ship to dock in Sri Lanka after dayslong delay

COLOMBO AP -- A Chinese research ship will dock in a Sri Lankan port after a dayslong delay due to concerns raised by India.

Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that the Yuan Wang 5, which had been scheduled to dock last Thursday in the southern Hambantota port, will now arrive Tuesday and anchor there until August 22.

Sri Lanka did not give specific reasons for a postponing of the ship's arrival, but security concerns of neighboring India over the ship's proximity to its southern borders likely factor in.

China is attempting to expand its influence in Sri Lanka, which sits along one of the busiest shipping routes in India considers part of its strategic backyard.

India's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said earlier that India was aware of a planned visit by the vessel and that it carefully monitors any developments that affects its security and economic interests and will take all measures to safeguard them.

India has provided critical assistance including food, fuel, medicines and cooking gas to the Indian Ocean nation as it struggles with an economic meltdown due to a severe foreign currency crisis. The agreement between China to restructure its infrastructure loans to Sri Lanka is vital for the country to be able to reach a bailout program with the International Monetary Fund.

The ministry wants to reiterate Sri Lanka's policy of cooperation and friendship with all countries. Security and cooperation in the neighborhood is of the utmost priority. In keeping with its international obligations, the Foreign Ministry said that Sri Lanka's intention is to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries.

China has given Sri Lanka billions of dollars for development projects, some of which have been criticized as having little practical use. They include Hambantota port, which Sri Lanka leased to China in 2017 because it could not pay back the loan.

Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said Monday that we urge the relevant parties to view China's marine scientific research activities in a rational light and stop disrupting normal exchange and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry said that the government had been in talks to try to resolve the matter in a spirit of friendship, mutual trust and constructive dialogue, taking into account the interests of all parties concerned and in line with the principle of sovereign equality of states. It said China applied for clearance for replenishment purposes and was approved.