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Chinese research vessel docks in Sri Lanka after postponement


HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka (AP) — A Chinese scientific research vessel whose port call had been postponed earlier due to apparent security concerns raised by India arrived at a port in southern Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

Yuan Wang 5 was welcomed by Sri Lankan port officials and Chinese officials from the Hambantota Port Shipping Company.

The ship was originally due to arrive on August 11, but the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry has asked to postpone the docking until further consultations take place. The ministry said last weekend that the ship had been allowed to dock at Hambantota until August 22. He said the two parties had agreed that the vessel would retain its identification systems and not carry out any research activities in Sri Lankan waters.

Sri Lanka said it was postponing the ship’s arrival due to concerns raised with the ministry, but did not identify who raised them. Neighboring India’s security concerns about the vessel’s proximity to its southern borders are likely taken into account.

India on Monday offered a maritime reconnaissance aircraft to Sri Lanka to boost its maritime security. The Indian Embassy said Sri Lankan Navy and Air Force personnel who have been trained in India will operate the aircraft with operational support from Indian personnel.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said earlier that India was aware of a planned visit by the vessel and was carefully monitoring any development affecting its security and economic interests and would take all measures to protect them.

China is pushing to expand its influence in Sri Lanka, which lies along one of the busiest sea routes in what India considers part of its strategic backyard.

India has provided crucial aid, including food, fuel, medicine and cooking gas, to the Indian Ocean nation as it battles an economic collapse amid a severe food crisis. currencies. At the same time, China’s agreement to restructure its infrastructure loans to Sri Lanka is vital for the country to achieve a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund.

China has lent Sri Lanka billions of dollars for development projects, some of which have been criticized as having little practical use. These include the port of Hambantota, which Sri Lanka leased from China in 2017 because it could not repay the loan.

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Associated Press writer Krishan Francis contributed reporting from Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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