02 March 2015
China on Monday made clear it expected the new Sri Lankan government to allow its submarines on "normal and transparent" anti-piracy missions to dock in the island nation, after Sri Lanka's new Foreign Minister said the new Colombo government would not allow a repeat of last year's visits by a Chinese submarine.
Speaking in Beijing after a two-day visit, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the new Colombo government would have a different approach than the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, which reportedly worried India by allowing a Chinese submarine to dock in Colombo in mid-September - when Chinese President Xi Jinping was about to visit India - and again in October.
"I really don't know under which sort of circumstances that led to some submarines.. to the port of Colombo on the very day the Japanese Prime Minister was visiting Sri Lanka. But we will ensure that such incidents, from whatever quarter, do not happen during our tenure," Samaraweera told reporters in Beijing.
His suggestion was that submarine visits would not be allowed when viewed as sensitive - such as the Japanese Prime Minister visiting Sri Lanka at the same time - although he left unclear if visits would be permitted at other times.
"These are normal and transparent activities and it also followed international practices," Hua told reporters.
She indicated it was China's expectation that Sri Lanka would "welcome" docking of submarines from countries including China.
"We had consent of the Sri Lankan side in advance," Hua said. "It is to my knowledge that it is the policy of the Sri Lankan side to support global anti-piracy campaign and it welcomes docking of submarines from friendly nations."
Samaraweera had also noted concerns in some quarters in Sri Lanka, which emerged during the election, on the interest rates on the loans owed to China, which became the island nation's biggest creditor during the Rajapaksa tenure offering more than $ 5 billion in loans in total.
The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister said a delegation from the Ministry of Finance would travel to Beijing soon to reexamine the loans, following the March 26 visit of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to China.
Asked about his comments on the loans, Hua pointed out the loans were offered "at the request of the Sri Lankan side".
"It is based on the principles of mutual benefit," she said. "The loan arrangement serves the interest of Sri Lanka and its people. It has played a positive role in promoting social and economic development of Sri Lanka. From the Foreign Minister's visit you can see that the Sri Lankan side appreciates China's assistance to his country. We believe that based on fundamental interests of the two countries and two peoples, our practical cooperation will press ahead."