Satellite-tracking 'Chinese research vessel' enters Sri Lanka port... India-US border

The Yuanwang 5, a Chinese satellite and ballistic missile tracking and detection vessel

The Chinese research vessel 'Wuanwang 5', which means to see far, entered the port of Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka, which China had virtually acquired for 99 years, on the 16th. A Chinese ship equipped with a large, high-performance radar capable of tracking and detecting ballistic missiles has entered a key point in the Indian Ocean, raising tensions between India and the United States.

At a regular briefing on the 16th, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Wang Won-bin said, "The Yuan Wang 5 Street has arrived at Hambantota Port, and a welcome ceremony was held with the participation of Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Jianhong and Sri Lankan lawmakers. Chinese and Sri Lankan national anthems were played, and Sri Lankans performed traditional dances on the red carpet. It will take some time for Yuan Wang 5 to complete the necessary supply.”

India and the US did not hide their vigilance, claiming that after China got Sri Lanka into debt, they obtained a port and started using it militarily. In fact, the port of Hambantota, where the ship arrived on that day, is considered a representative example of the 'debt trap' set by China. Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Raja Paksa borrowed most of the $1.5 billion (about $ 1.96 trillion) from China in 2010 to develop the port of Hambantotae, the home of his family, in southern Hambantotae, but utilization was extremely low. Unbearable, the Sri Lankan government transferred the operating rights to China for 99 years in 2017 in the form of selling most of the stake in the port operating company to a Chinese state-owned company. Since then, the United States and India have been concerned that the Hambantota International Port will become a strategic stepping stone for the Chinese navy to project military power into the Indian Ocean and the Middle East.

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The Chinese government describes the Yuanwang 5 as a “scientific research vessel”, but some Western media, including AP, write it as a “Chinese naval vessel”. This is because the ship is equipped with high-performance radar that tracks and detects satellites and ballistic missiles, and is known as a ship operated by the People's Liberation Army Strategic Support Force. According to Chinese media, Yuan Wang 5 was tasked with tracking the space station module from the sea when China launched it last month.

The Indian media, which is competing with China over Sri Lanka, are even calling the ship a “spy ship”. The Indian daily newspaper Indian Express said, “The Yuan Wang 5 is known to have an aerial tracking range of 750 km, which means that the radar will reach (Southeast India) Kerala, Tamil Nadu and (southeast) Andhra Pradesh. ” reported. Arindam Bagchi, a spokesman for the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said last week that "we are closely monitoring any situation affecting India's security and economic interests and will take all measures to protect it." A senior US government official also told The Washington Post that Sri Lanka "appears to be giving special treatment to China".

Sri Lanka, which is currently experiencing severe economic hardship due to the recent national default, is paying attention to India, which has promised to provide $4 billion (about 5.24 trillion won) of financial support. As a result, it seems that there have been ups and downs, such as delaying the entry of the ship once. Sri Lanka's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on the 13th, "The Chinese government requested a port call on the 11th and 16th, but in consideration of several concerns, we have requested the Chinese government to postpone the visit." However, after "high-level consultations with all parties through diplomatic channels," he said, "China requested and approved the call again from the 16th to the 22nd." In Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had taken a pro-China route, took responsibility for the economic collapse and recently stepped down from power, but it is a situation that needs to be looked at China's intentions for debt restructuring negotiations.

Dayan Jayatileka, former Sri Lankan ambassador to Russia, tweeted on Twitter that the arrival of Yuan Wang 5 cannot escape the reaction of a major power in the region (India). It could come out,” he said.