China refuses comment on Sri Lanka saying no to PLA submarine docking
China on Friday refused to comment on reports that Sri Lanka had turned down a request to allow a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) submarine to dock in Colombo.
A Reuters report from Colombo said Sri Lankan officials were “unlikely” to agree to China’s request to dock a submarine anytime soon “given India’s concerns”.
“It might happen later,” a second official told Reuters, adding China had requested approval “sometime back” to use the port around May 16.
When asked about the news reports on Friday, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the queries should be raised with the defence ministry. He added that China and Sri Lanka maintain “traditional friendship” and cooperate across bilateral spheres.
Colombo’s decision to make the refusal public comes at the time when Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is visiting the island nation to attend a high-profile Buddhist summit on the occasion of “Vesak”, celebrated to mark the birthday of Buddha.
Modi met his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena on Thursday.
Wickremesinghe, incidentally, will be flying to Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum on Sunday and Monday.
Sri Lanka twice allowed Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo in 2014, triggering alarm bells in India.
China and Sri Lanka have deepened cooperation in all sectors over the years, including in defence, but the Sirisena government has seemingly tried to balance India’s concerns over an increasing Chinese footprint in the country.
In March, Sirisena had expressed “his appreciation for China's consistent assistance” for Sri Lanka in economy, agriculture, science and technology, education, defence and other areas.
“He noted that Sri Lanka is an important country along the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, saying China would have to work together with Sri Lanka in promoting each other's development so as to benefit their two peoples”, according to a report by state-run Xinhua news agency.
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