CCP Confirms Its 'Spy Ship' Has Docked at Sri Lanka’s Port, After Objections From India

India objected to ship's arrival due to security concerns

CCP Confirms Its 'Spy Ship' Has Docked at Sri Lanka’s Port, After Objections From India
China's research and survey vessel, the Yuan Wang 5, arrives at Hambantota port on Aug.16, 2022. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP via Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

An official from the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP's) foreign ministry on Tuesday confirmed that the regime's satellite-tracking vessel has docked at Sri Lanka's port for replenishment, following a delay after India objected to the ship's arrival, citing security concerns.

The research vessel, Yuan Wang 5, arrived at the Hambantota port on Tuesday morning and will remain there for seven days. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said the ship was approved after “extensive consultations at a high level.”

Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for the Chinese regime's foreign ministry, claimed that the “marine scientific research activities” of the ship are "consistent with international law," and insisted that it should not be “obstructed by any third party.”

“They do not affect the security and economic interests of any country and should not be obstructed by any third party,” Wang told reporters.

Yuan Wang 5 Captain Zhang Hongwang said the ship's visit would "deepen the exchange between China and Sri Lanka in the field of space science and technology and promote the common progress of the space industry of the two countries."

Sri Lanka had initially granted approval for the ship to dock from Aug. 11 to Aug. 17 but later requested that China delay the ship’s arrival due to India’s security objections.

India had earlier warned that it would take “all necessary measures” to safeguard its security and economic interests in relation to Yuan Wang 5 which has been described as a "spy ship" or more by India’s media.
Yuan Wang 5 has approximately 750 kilometer (466 miles) aerial reach, which could track several Indian ports in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh while docking at Sri Lanka's port, Indian Express reported.
“It is a highly sophisticated missile range instrumentation ship with top-of-the-line antennas and electronic equipment to support the launching and tracking of missiles and rockets,” reported CNN-News.18.

Others, such as shipping analytics websites, have called the Yuan Wang 5 a research and survey vessel. The Pentagon says the Yuan Wang ships are operated by the Strategic Support Force of the People's Liberation Army.

A day before the vessel’s arrival, India’s government gifted a Dornier reconnaissance aircraft to Sri Lanka to “strengthen the maritime security” of the country and to enhance the security of the Indian Ocean region at large.

Debt Restructuring Under Threat

China reportedly called for meetings with top Sri Lankan officials over the ship's delay and expressed “dissatisfaction” with Sri Lanka’s handling of the matter, Nikkei Asia reported, citing officials from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry.

“[Officials from the Chinese regime] were especially angry because approval was granted, and then it was withdrawn [by Sri Lanka],” said one of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Chinese regime allegedly threatened Sri Lanka with potential repercussions to its debt restructuring of Chinese loans, negotiations for a $4 billion aid package, and a free trade pact with China.

Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry eventually approved the ship and said that it aims "to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with its international obligations.”

Sri Lanka defaulted on its debt in May. The country has $51 billion in outstanding foreign debt, $6.5 billion of which is owed to China.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that Sri Lanka must work with its largest creditor, China, to resolve debt issues. Sri Lanka is also in talks with the IMF for a bailout package.

“China is a big creditor, and Sri Lanka has to engage proactively with it on a debt restructuring,” Krishna Srinivasan, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific department, told Reuters. Japan and India are also bilateral creditors to Sri Lanka.

The crisis-hit nation requested that China amend the terms of a $1.5 billion yuan-denominated swap facility that it signed last year, which stipulates that the fund can only be used provided that Sri Lanka has enough foreign reserves to last three months.

Sri Lanka is also a key part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, which other countries have criticized as a “debt trap” for smaller nations. Several of its infrastructure projects funded by foreign investments have failed to generate revenue, plunging the country into debt.

In December 2017, the Sri Lankan government leased the Hambantota port to China for 99 years to convert its owed loans of $1.4 billion into equity, but India has been concerned that Beijing would use the port as a military base.

UPDATE: The Yuan Wang 5 left Hambantota port on Aug. 22 after a week-long stay, said the Hambantota International Port Group, a partnership between Sri Lanka's government and China Merchants Port Holdings.