SL re­jects US claims; says H’tota not a Chi­nese mil­i­tary base

The H’tota Port is a com­mer­cial joint ven­ture be­tween our Ports Au­thor­ity and China Mer­chants - a com­pany listed in the HK stock ex­change

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FRONT PAGE -

Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe has re­jected US claims that China might set up a “for­ward mil­i­tary base” at the Ham­ban­tota Port and said it was only “imag­i­nary” think­ing, the Eco­nomic Times re­ported on Thurs­day.

No for­eign naval bases in Sri Lanka

Ad­dress­ing an event at Lon­don’s Ox­ford Univer­sity on Mon­day, Mr. Wick­remesinghe said some peo­ple are see­ing “imag­i­nary Chi­nese Naval bases in Sri Lanka.

“The Ham­ban­tota Port is a com­mer­cial joint ven­ture be­tween our Ports Au­thor­ity and China Mer­chants - a com­pany listed in the Hong Kong Stock Ex­change. There are no for­eign naval bases in Sri Lanka,” he em­pha­sised.

His com­ments came days af­ter US Vice-pres­i­dent Mike Pence al­leged China of us­ing “debt diplo­macy” to ex­pand its global in­flu­ence and said that Ham­ban­tota “may soon be­come a for­ward mil­i­tary base for China’s grow­ing blue-wa­ter navy”

Mr. Wick­remesinghe said Lankan Navy’s South­ern Com­mand was be­ing re­lo­cated in the Ham­ban­tota port to con­trol se­cu­rity and the US De­fence De­part­ment has been briefed on these de­vel­op­ments.

He said Sri Lanka was also con­clud­ing a com­mer­cial agree­ment that would see the Air­port Au­thor­ity of In­dia (AAI) tak­ing over the con­trol of the Ham­ban­tota air­port, which was built with high in­ter­est com­mer­cial loan from China.

The Prime Min­is­ter said, “in this at­mos­phere of sus­pi­cion, many coun­tries fear that the South China Sea is­sues can spill over, lead­ing to fu­ture mil­i­tari­sa­tion and mil­i­tary com­pe­ti­tion in the In­dian Ocean.”

“This has re­sulted in a num­ber of stake­hold­ers in­ten­si­fy­ing their in­ter­est and pres­ence in the In­dian Ocean by ex­pand­ing their fleets, up­grad­ing their bases, se­cur­ing ac­cess to for­eign ports, and ag­gres­sive naval pos­tur­ing via joint ex­er­cises, ex­tended sor­ties, and live-fire drills.

“The In­dian Ocean re­gion re­quires a com­mon un­der­stand­ing that will en­sure peace and sta­bil­ity within the re­gion. there is also a need to work towards build­ing a re­gional frame­work for both trade and se­cu­rity – while en­sur­ing that the re­gion re­mains free, open and in­clu­sive...the in­ter­ests of the smaller states are best served by ad­vo­cat­ing for and up­hold­ing a rule-based order in the re­gion,” he said.

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