Yuan Wang 5 has become China’s newest tool to show its assertiveness in the Indian Ocean region

Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang 5 could be headed back towards the Indian Ocean Region, ahead of a possible missile test later this month. India earlier issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) area warning in the Sea of Andaman for about 5000 kms for December 15 and December 16.

The movement of Yuan Wang 5 was spotted by Twitter user Damien Symon, an open source intelligence expert.

The development comes amid India testing its BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands on November 29.

The Yuan Wang 5 spy ship has been used by China and its army to spy on its enemies. The spy ship - which China claims to be a research vessel - earlier this year has been the subject of a diplomatic tussle between New Delhi and Beijing and also involved Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka, under pressure from Beijing and facing an economic crisis, allowed China to dock the spy ship at the Hambantota port. It must be noted that Hambantota Port was developed with Chinese funds and the bankrupt nation has handed the port on a 99-year lease as part of a debt swap.

The port is of strategic importance to India as it falls in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Yuan Wang 5 is capable of tracking missiles and rockets launched and can itself also help launch missiles, according to the Pentagon.

India also postponed its plan for the missile test after Yuan Wang VI, another spy ship, entered the Indian Ocean region in November. MarineTraffic, a website that tracks ship movements, confirmed that Yuan Wang VI was near the Indian Ocean region. The ship is suspected to have been positioned there to study the missile tests.

The Indian Navy earlier on Thursday said Chinese ships intruding into the Indian Ocean Region is not uncommon and the Navy has its eyes on such movements.

“The Chinese intrusions into the Indian Ocean region are not uncommon. They have been here for quite some time. I must assure you that we keep our areas of interest under surveillance throughout. We do that using a variety of means,” Southern Naval Command (SNC) chief, Vice Admiral M A Hampiholi was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.