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Alarm bells in Sri Lanka over China's surveillance ship en route Hambantota Port
Colombo: Yuan Wang 5, the Chinese research and Survey vessel, en route to the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka has sent alarm bells to Colombo as country's Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry said that China has informed of "sending ship for surveillance".
Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry media spokesman Colonel Nalin Herath also expressed similar sentiments saying that the country will allow the vessel to dock since it is a non-nuclear platform. However, he said that they are aware of India's concerns, Daily Mirror reported. "China informed us that they are sending their ship for surveillance and navigation in the Indian Ocean," he said.
The Chinese vessel is all set to arrive in Sri Lanka on August 11. The Sri Lankan government has responded to the concern and said that there is no military motive behind the visit by the vessel, Daily Mirror reported.
Notably, the Yuan Wang 5 is a dual-use spy, research and survey vessel which is employed for space and satellite tracking and with specific usage in intercontinental ballistic missile launches, according to reports.
This vessel is in control of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) under its Strategic Support Force(SSF) unit. The SSF focuses on space, cyber, and electronic warfare.
A Sri Lankan consulting firm, the Belt and Road Initiative Sri Lanka, said on its website that the Yuan Wang 5 is likely to leave on August 17 after replenishment.
It further said Yuan Wang 5 would be in Hambantota for a week and "conduct space tracking, satellite control and research tracking in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean region through August and September".
Designated as a research stroke survey vessel, Yuan Wang 5 was built in 2007 and has a carrying capacity of 11,000 tonnes. The survey vessel departed from Jiangyin, China on July 13 and is currently sailing close to Taiwan where China is conducting live-fire drills as an aggressive posture against Taipei for allowing US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit the self-ruled island.
Since the beginning of 2022, Sri Lanka has experienced an escalating economic crisis and the government has defaulted on its foreign loans. The United Nations warned that 5.7 million people "require immediate humanitarian assistance."
While Sri Lanka faces its worst economic crisis since independence with food and fuel shortages, China has turned a blind eye to the crisis and shifted the blame to the borrower, a media report said.
Amid the pandemic, the country was trying to rebuild its economy, but the tourism industry was hit badly, an article in the Global Strat View think-tank read. Tourism in Sri Lanka supports 10 to 15 per cent of the economy.
The effect of the COVID-19 crisis, the loss of tourists, high government expenditure and tax cuts depleting state revenues, and the use of money for initiatives with minimal returns have all contributed to Sri Lanka's economic meltdown.
Russia is the third largest market for Sri Lanka's tea exports. As a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, Russia was blocked from the SWIFT global payments system making the country unable to pay Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka turned to China for help and asked for USD 1 billion loan to meet repayments, and a USD 1.5 billion credit line to buy Chinese goods, however, no progress was attained even after months of negotiations. (ANI)