The recent revelation that the Chinese research ship Xiang Yang Hong 03 has planned a visit to Sri Lanka has stirred up worries among international observers, particularly from the United States.
The Xiang Yang Hong 03, a research vessel under China’s Ministry of Natural Resources, is set to dock at the Colombo port. It is also expected to conduct its oceanographic surveys in Sri Lanka’s exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that they have granted permission for the ship’s operations after a thorough analysis, only for scientific research with the confidence that they do not harm the country’s sovereignty.
However, the proposed visit of the vessel has drawn concerns from the United States. The U.S. State Department has consecutively raised caution over China’s intentions, suspecting the vessel’s involvement in advancing the Chinese military’s survey capabilities. Considering China’s aggressive assertions in the South China Sea and its increasing global influence, such concerns are not entirely unfounded.
The US-China rivalry in the Indian Ocean region is intensifying due to its strategic importance. This issue highlights that the fear among western nations is primarily driven by China’s growing marine obsessions. The U.S. is continuously wary of China’s expansion, suspecting it as a plan for military dominance.
China’s increasing maritime activities in strategically important regions have often been labeled as endeavors to expand its naval presence under the guise of scientific research. This suspicion stems from several incidents in the past where Chinese “research” vessels have been found conducting surveys in disputed regions or engaging in activities with unclear scientific purposes.
It’s important to note that Sri Lanka sits in a crucial geopolitical location in the Indian Ocean, becoming a focal point in the U.S and China’s strategic maneuvers. Therefore, US concerns over the Chinese vessel are also linked to its broader worries about China’s increasing influence in Sri Lanka.
In conclusion, the visit of the Chinese research ship Xiang Yang Hong 03 to Sri Lanka entails more than just scientific research, stirring international debate and concern. Its implications underline the ongoing global power dynamics, suggesting that the strategic rivalry between the U.S. and China continues to increase around the world, especially in strategically significant regions.