Sri Lanka confirmed the Yuan Wang 5 will arrive next week, despite concerns from neighboring India.
Sri Lanka says it has granted permission for a controversial Chinese research vessel to visit the island, though security concerns was raised by neighboring India.
Yuan Wang 5 is described by international transport and analysis sites as a research and survey vessel, but according to Indian media, it is a dual-use spy ship.
Both China and India are trying to expand their influence in Sri Lanka, which is facing the worst economic crisis in its post-independence history.
This year, India has helped Sri Lanka more than any other country. But they fear a larger and stronger rival China will use the Hambantota port near the main Eurasian shipping route as a military base.
The British Foreign Office said the Yuan Wang 5 was originally due to arrive at a port in Hambantota on Sri Lanka’s south coast on August 11, but will now arrive on Tuesday.
The initial visit was approved on July 12, a day before former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled after months of protests against the country’s economic crisis.
Rajapaksa – whose brother Mahinda borrowed money from China during his tenure as president from 2005 to 2015 – resigned after fleeing to Singapore.
Tens of thousands of protesters flooded his palace and home in Colombo after accusing him of economic mismanagement that led to severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine.
Sri Lanka leased Hambantota deep-water port to China for 99 years for $1.12 billion, less than the $1.4 billion Sri Lanka paid a Chinese company to build it.
According to Indian reports, Yuan Wang 5 can be used for space and satellite tracking, and has specific applications in intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
India’s foreign ministry said it would closely monitor “any influence on India’s security and economic interests and take all necessary measures to protect them”.
India has denied claims that it has pressured Sri Lanka to deny the vessel.
“We categorically reject such ‘innuendos’ and claims about India. Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and makes its own independent decisions,” said Arindam Bagchi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.