Chinese military ship leaves Sri Lanka after controversial visit

Chinese military survey ship Yuan Wang 5 arrives at Hambantota International Port in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, August 16, 2022.

COLOMBO (Reuters) – A Chinese military survey ship that docked at Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built port of Hambantota despite opposition from neighboring India left on Monday after a week-long stay, the port company told Reuters.

Analysts say the Yuan Wang 5 is among a group of Chinese ships that monitor satellite, rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile launches. India, Sri Lanka’s northern neighbor, fears China could use the port as a military base.

Sri Lanka, facing its worst economic crisis in decades and in need of financial support from both China and India, had delayed the ship’s arrival after India raised its concerns but gave in to Chinese demands later.

The ship has now left the southern Sri Lankan port, said the Hambantota International Port Group, a partnership between Sri Lanka’s government and China Merchants Port Holdings 0144.HK.

The ship’s next destination was not immediately known.

The Pentagon says the Yuan Wang ships are operated by the Strategic Support Force of the People’s Liberation Army.

Yuan Wang 5 Captain Zhang Hongwang said last week that 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.”

China says the Hambantota port, leased by China Merchants in 2017 for 99 years, is a key part of its Belt and Road initiative linking infrastructure projects in various countries.