The Chinese research vessel Yaun Wang 5 will defer its Hambantota port-call today at the request of Sri Lanka.
Originally scheduled to dock for a week, the vessel planned to refuel and conduct research – notably in satellite and space tracking. The two-fold surveillance and research vessel left Jiangyin on July 13 to navigate through the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Beijing claims the sudden deferral was influenced by India in response to growing Chinese military presence in the region. In efforts to match regional Chinese foreign-aid, India released funds to support the Sri Lankan political and economic crisis worth $3.5-4B USD, alongside an IMF bailout. Although Beijing-Colombo relations have flourished since Sri Lanka’s independence, recent moves by Colombo amid economic collapse have strained ties.
Expect the deferral of the Yuan Wang 5 to aggravate Beijing, especially as Colombo leans closer to New Delhi due to its economic and political support. Additionally, Sri Lanka’s decision to seek debt reprieve from the IMF casts a shadow over Beijing’s large debt relief scheme. In the short-term, expect China to critique India – whose influence has now left Beijing-Colombo relations in an even more precarious climate – as the Sri Lankan government prepares a restart.
Joseph is a Current Developments Analyst with regional expertise in Northeast Asia. He focuses primarily on South Korean-Japanese geopolitics.