It is reported that the United States has expressed concerns regarding the forthcoming arrival of the Chinese ‘research ship’ Shi Yan 6, suspected to be a spy vessel, in Colombo.
According to Sri Lankan news outlet Daily Mirror Online, US Under Secretary Victoria Nuland during her meeting with Foreign Minister Ali Sabry raised concerns about the upcoming visit of the Chinese vessel.
Sabry reportedly briefed Nuland that the ship is acting in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedure (SPO) drafted by Colombo that is to be followed by foreign ships and aircraft in carrying out any activity in Sri Lankan territory.
The minister reportedly told her that Sri Lanka, a neutral country, had been even-handed in this approach for all the countries and could not exclude China from the process as a result.
It is unclear when the meeting took place, but the report mentioned that the officials met in the United States on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.
The Chinese vessel will be docking at Colombo port in October.
According to a statement published by the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, the ship would help “strengthen scientific research cooperation and exchanges with countries along the Maritime Silk Road and further realise the integration of science and education for Belt and Road Initiative”.
The so-called “scientific research vessel” has 60 crew members on board.
According to reports, researchers affiliated with Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), are set to commence a scientific expedition aboard the vessel Shi Yan 6.
Their primary objective is to carry out an extensive survey encompassing both the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the island nation and the region of the southern Indian Ocean.
China regularly sends its vessels to Sri Lanka for “research purposes”, but New Delhi believes that China is attempting to snoop on its defence installations.
Last year, it raised concerns over a Sri Lanka port call in Hambantota by Chinese research vessel Yuan Wang 5, which specialises in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship.