The United States has reportedly expressed concerns about the upcoming visit of the Chinese research vessel, Shi Yan 6, believed to have intelligence-gathering capabilities, to Colombo. According to Sri Lankan news sources, US Under Secretary Victoria Nuland raised these concerns during a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry. The foreign minister informed Nuland that the Chinese vessel would adhere to the Standard Operating Procedure (SPO) developed by Sri Lanka for foreign ships and aircraft operating within its territory. He emphasized Sri Lanka’s neutral stance and its commitment to applying the SPO uniformly to all nations, including China.
The meeting between Nuland and Sabry took place in the United States, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, although the exact date is not specified in the reports.
The Chinese research vessel, Shi Yan 6, is scheduled to dock at Colombo port in October. According to Chinese state media, the vessel’s mission is to strengthen scientific research cooperation and exchanges with countries along the Maritime Silk Road and support the Belt and Road Initiative’s integration of science and education.
However, India has previously expressed concerns that Chinese research vessels in Sri Lankan ports may be used for intelligence-gathering activities targeting India’s defense installations. This issue has prompted diplomatic engagement between India and Sri Lanka.
As the visit of the Chinese vessel approaches, concerns about its true intentions and capabilities continue to be a point of discussion among regional stakeholders.