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Yuan Wang 5 Chinese research vessel: Government rescinds consent to dock 

  • Foreign Ministry sends note on Friday to Chinese Embassy in Colombo
  • Chinese mission asked to defer vessel’s visit, pending further consultations
  • Sabry’s meeting with Chinese counterpart fails to resolve vessel controversy
  • Chinese Envoy meets President, expresses China’s concern and displeasure

By Our Political Editor

The Government on Thursday (4) decided to rescind the permission granted to the Yuan Wang 5 Chinese research vessel with the relevant official communication to the Chinese Embassy in Colombo being delivered on Friday (5), The Sunday Morning learns.

The Yuan Wang 5’s visit to Sri Lanka that was earlier scheduled for Thursday (11) caused much controversy, with India posting strong concerns and protests over permission being granted for the Chinese vessel to dock in Sri Lanka as the vessel has satellite and missile tracking capabilities.

The Sri Lankan Government made several efforts, including several unofficial discussions being held between the President and the Indian and Chinese envoys in Sri Lanka, to resolve the diplomatic row over the Chinese vessel.

The President has also requested Foreign Minister Ali Sabry to discuss the issue over the Chinese vessel with his Indian and Chinese counterparts on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Cambodia. However, despite efforts by the Foreign Minister, the issue was not resolved, with the Chinese leaders not agreeing to consider a change of route for the vessel.

Highly-placed Government sources told The Sunday Morning that during Ali Sabry’s meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, efforts had been made to explain the crisis faced by the country and the exceptional situation Sri Lanka was in at present and to request the Chinese to help Sri Lanka by changing the Yuan Wang 5’s route to avoid docking in the country at present. 

However, the Chinese official had not agreed, saying that permission had been sought from the Sri Lankan Government and that it had been granted for the vessel to dock in Sri Lanka for replenishment. 

When Sabry communicated the outcome of the meeting to President Wickremesinghe, it had been decided that the Government had no option but to rescind the permission granted for the Yuan Wang 5 to dock in Hambantota. 

“The Ministry requests that the arrival date of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota be deferred until further consultations are made on this matter,” the Foreign Ministry has noted in its note sent to the Chinese Embassy in Colombo last Friday. 

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo the assurances of its highest consideration,” the note added. 

Chinese Ambassador to Colombo Qi Zhenhong requested to meet the President soon after receiving the note on Friday and was granted an appointment last afternoon (6). It is learnt that the Chinese Envoy has expressed China’s concern and displeasure at the Sri Lankan Government’s decision to rescind permission to the Chinese vessel. 

It is learnt that the Sri Lankan Government in 2021 and early 2022 had granted permission for several Chinese vessels for replenishment in Sri Lankan ports. Among them are Shi Yan 1 (15 April 2021 to Colombo), Shi Yan 3 (15 May 2021 to Colombo), Hai Ce 3301 (8 December 2021 and 5 January 2022 to Colombo) and Shi Yan 6 (20 April 2022 to Colombo).

All these vessels had sought permission from the Foreign Ministry for docking and replenishments. Another vessel – Xiang Yang Hong 3 – that was due to dock in Colombo on 7 July 2022 for ‘research’ purposes had been cancelled.

It is in this same manner that Yuan Wang 5 had sought permission to dock at the Hambantota Port on 11 August for replenishment.