The Chinese “spy ship” YUAN WANG 5 has been cleared to enter the Hambantota Port.
India had earlier raised concerns with Sri Lanka on moves to allow what it called a Chinese “spy ship” to enter Sri Lankan waters.
Issuing a statement today, the Foreign Ministry said that on 28 June, 2022, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo informed the Ministry via a Diplomatic Note that the Chinese Scientific Research Ship YUAN WANG 5 is scheduled to pay a port call at the port of Hambantota from 11-17 August, 2022 for replenishment purposes.
While no rotation of personnel were to take place during the call, the Government of Sri Lanka was requested to provide necessary assistance and positive consideration to the request by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China.
The Ministry, as per accepted practice related to such requests for ‘diplomatic clearance’, circulated the said request among relevant stakeholders in Government for approval – the Ministry of Defence, the Sri Lanka Navy and the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL).
Following receipt on 7 July, 2022 of security clearance from the Ministry of Defence for the visit of the vessel for replenishment purposes during the stipulated period, as well as a No Objection Letter from the TRCSL for the use of frequencies and communication equipment subject to non-interference and non-protection basis, diplomatic clearance was conveyed to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China by the Ministry on 12 July, 2022 for the said vessel to make a port call at the port of Hambantota for replenishment purposes.
The following conditions highlighted by the Ministry of Defence were also stated – keeping the Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on within the EEZ of Sri Lanka and no scientific research to be conducted in Sri Lankan waters.
Subsequently, in light of certain concerns raised with the Ministry, the Government of Sri Lanka requested the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, by Diplomatic Note dated 05 August 2022, to defer the visit of the vessel to Hambantota port until the conduct of further consultations on the matter.
The Government has since engaged in extensive consultations at a high level through diplomatic channels with all parties concerned, with a view to resolving 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. In light of concerns raised, the Ministry also sought further information and material that could assist in consultations on the matter.
On 12 August 2022 the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China informed the Ministry via Diplomatic Note that the Vessel YUAN WANG 5 was scheduled to arrive in the port of Hambantota on 16 August, 2022 and applied for clearance for replenishment purposes for the new dates 16 to 22 August, 2022. Having considered all material in place, on 13 August, 2022 the clearance to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China was conveyed for the deferred arrival of the vessel from 16-22 August, 2022.
The Ministry also reiterated Sri Lanka’s policy of cooperation and friendship with all countries.
Security and cooperation in the neighbourhood is of utmost priority. It is Sri Lanka’s intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with its international obligations. The Ministry is deeply appreciative of the support, solidarity and understanding of all countries, especially in the current juncture when the country is in the process of addressing severe economic challenges and engaging in multiple domestic processes to ensure the welfare of the Sri Lankan people. (Colombo Gazette)