By Susitha Fernando
Colombo, Aug 6 (IANS): Amid pressure from its immediate neighbour India, Sri Lanka has urged China to delay the entry of controversial Chinese ship 'Yuan Wang 5' into the Chinese controlled port in Southern Hambantota.
In a letter to the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, the Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka stated, "The Ministry wishes to request that the arrival date of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota to be deferred until further consultation is made on this matter."
Referring to the permission given on July 12 allowing the Chinese ship to enter the Hambantota Port, the Foreign Ministry said, "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka presents its compliments to the Embassy of People's Republic of China in Colombo and has the honour to refer to the Ministry's Note No. PR/0640/2022 dated July 12, 2022 conveying the clearances for the visit of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 to enter the Port of Hambantota for replenishment purposes."
Weeks ahead of the visit of the Chinese 'spy' ship, India had expressed its concern with the government of Sri Lanka. India had cautioned that it monitors closely all the developments with regard to her security, in the backdrop of the arrival of Chinese 'research' vessel which was planned to reach Hambantota on August 11.
According to a bilateral agreement signed in 1987, no Sri Lankan port can be allowed to be used for military purposes by any country in a manner prejudicial to India's interests.
In response to India's concern, Sri Lanka had earlier stated that the visit of the Chinese ship was only for "refuelling and replenishing of other facilities and provisions".
"The ship or members of its crew will not involve in any internal affairs or business in Sri Lanka. China and India have always helped Sri Lanka domestically and in the international fora as true friends," Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Bandula Gunawarndena had stated.
"Sri Lanka would not do anything to harm the good understanding and trust existing between the two countries for millennia. Under no circumstances would Sri Lanka act detrimental to the interests of India or China as both nations have been Sri Lanka's friends-in-need and have stood alongside Sri Lanka at all times," he had said.