Sri Lanka grants permission to Chinese spy ship 'Yuan Wang 5' to dock: Reports
The Yuan Wang 5 was originally due to call at Sri Lanka's Chinese-run Hambantota port earliest this month, only for Colombo to ask Beijing to indefinitely defer the visit. The Yuan Wang 5 might be used for satellite and space tracking, and it has particular applications in the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to sources in the Indian government.
Sri Lanka's government granted permission on Saturday for a controversial Chinese research vessel to visit the island despite India's concerns that it could spy on New Delhi's military installations, news agency AFP reported.
International shipping and analytics websites refer to the Yuan Wang 5 as a research and survey vessel, but it is also rumoured to be a dual-purpose surveillance ship. Beijing's expanding presence in the Indian Ocean and influence in Sri Lanka raise suspicion in New Delhi, which sees both as firmly within its area of influence. The Chinese-run Hambantota port in Sri Lanka was scheduled to receive the Yuan Wang 5 on August 11, but Colombo requested Beijing to postpone the visit indefinitely.
Sri Lanka's harbour master, Nirmal P Silva, said he had received foreign ministry clearance for the ship to call at Hambantota from August 16 to 22. "I acquired the diplomatic permission today. To assure port logistics, we will collaborate with the local representative sent by the ship," said Silva to AFP.
According to officials in the foreign ministry, Colombo had extended the first clearance for the visit, which had been given on July 12—the day before the former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa departed the country after months of unrest over the nation's worst-ever economic crisis.
After fleeing to Singapore, Rajapaksa—whose brother Mahinda borrowed extensively from China while serving as president from 2005 to 2015—resigned.
Following accusations of poor leadership during an economic crisis that resulted in severe shortages of food, gasoline, and medications, tens of thousands of demonstrators occupied his palace and residence in Colombo.
On Friday night, according to port authorities, the Chinese ship was roughly 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) south-east of Sri Lanka and was slowly making its way to the Hambantota deep sea port. Less than the $1.4 billion Sri Lanka paid to a Chinese company to develop the port, Sri Lanka leased it to China for 99 years for $1.12 billion. The Yuan Wang 5 might be used for satellite and space tracking, and it has particular applications in the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to sources in the Indian government.