Chinese research vessel to enter Sri Lanka's Hambantota port mid-August

New Delhi: The navy is monitoring the movements of a Chinese research vessel that is bound for Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, sources in the defence and security establishment said.

The vessel is scheduled to dock at Hambantota port in mid-August. However, the exact purpose of the vessel’s visit to Hambantota is unclear. It remains to be seen whether it is going to the port for turnaround, replenishment, logistics, or signalling, according to sources.

The sources also explained that such vessels start their movement when China or any other country is carrying out missile tests, adding: “It is not a military vessel though. Such Chinese vessels have operated in the area before, and we have always monitored their activity.”

The Chinese research vessel — called the Yuan Wang 5 — is reportedly involved in space and satellite tracking. After first denying reports of its expected arrival at Hambantota port, Sri Lanka’s defence ministry confirmed Saturday that the vessel would be docking at the port between 11 and 17 August.

This came after Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry, alluded to the Chinese vessel while telling the media Thursday that India “carefully monitors any development having a bearing on its security and economic interests”.

Consequently, Reuters reported that China Friday said that it hoped “relevant parties” would refrain from interfering with its “legitimate maritime activities”. According to the report, the “Yuan Wang 5 is one of China’s latest generation space-tracking ships, used to monitor satellite, rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile launches”.

The Yuan Wang 5 is a third generation vessel in the Yuan Wang class series and entered service in 2007. It has a displacement of 25,000 tonnes and can hold out against a maximum wind scale of 12. The Yuan Wang 5 was built by the state-owned Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai. It reportedly also has an aerial reach of 750 km. The Yuan Wang 5s are operated by the Strategic Support Force of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).