The activities of Yuan Wang 5, controversial Chinese ‘research and survey’ vessel, which "successfully berthed" at the southern port of Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, 16 August, "do not affect the security and economic interests of any country and should not be obstructed by any third party," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has said.
Despite concerns of India, the ship reached the Sri Lankan port on Tuesday with active cooperation from Sri Lankan side. India is concerned that China might use the port to spy on the former's military installations.
Speaking to reporters, Wenbin, however, evaded questions about China providing financial assistance to Sri Lanka, which is facing its worst economic crisis.
Responding to queries about India's concerns, he said, "I want to stress again that the marine scientific research activities of the Yuan Wang-5 ship are consistent with international law and international customary practice."
"They do not affect the security and economic interests of any country and should not be obstructed by any third party," he said.
Meanwhile, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that the developments in the neighbourhood are of interest to India.
"What happens in our neighbourhood, any developments which have a bearing on our security, obviously are of interest to us," he said, reported news agency ANI.
'This Kind of Research Ship Visiting Sri Lanka Is Very Natural': China's Envoy
In wake of the controversy, China's envoy labelled the ship's visit as "very natural."
China's Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong was present at the port to welcome the ship with a ceremony. Speaking to the reporters, he said that "this kind of research ship visiting Sri Lanka is very natural. In 2014 a similar ship came here."
“I don't know, you should ask the Indian friends. May be this is life,” he further added, when asked about India's concern.
Wenbin said the ceremony was attended by a representative of Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe besides "more than ten heads of parties and heads of friendly communities."
"The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, as Chinese and Sri Lankan national anthems were played, and the Sri Lankan people performed the traditional folk dance on the red carpet,” he said.
Further, he said that it will take some time for the Yuan Wang 5 research ship to complete the replenishment of necessary supplies after the docking. Officials had earlier said that the ship would be docked there till 22 August.
The 'Spy' Ship
On Saturday, Sri Lanka granted permission for the "dual-use spy" ship to land at its port.
The ship was originally due to dock at Sri Lanka's Chinese-run Hambantota port on 11 August. However, after India flagged its concerns, Sri Lanka's defence ministry requested the Chinese embassy in Colombo to delay the ship's arrival.
In the aftermath of initial reports of Yuan Wang 5's proposed arrival at the Hambanthota port, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson had said, “The government carefully monitors any development having a bearing on India’s security and economic interests and takes all necessary measures to safeguard them.”
(With inputs from ANI and PTI.)