China today strongly defended the docking of its submarines at Colombo port as well as the high interests rates charged for its loans asserting that these were done at the instance of the previous government, brushing aside concerns expressed by new Sri Lankan Foreign Minister.
“We had the consent of the Sri Lanka side in advance,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters responding to Mangala Samaraweera’s comments that the new government will not permit the docking of Chinese submarines.
After reports that one of the Chinese submarines docked at the Colombo port during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year, the new Sri Lankan government said it will not permit such dockings.
“I really do not know what circumstances led to some submarines coming to the port of Colombo on the very day the Japanese Prime Minister was visiting Sri Lanka,” Samaraweera had said here last week, disclosing for the first time that the docking coincided with Abe’s Colombo visit.
“But we will ensure that such incidents from whatever quarters does not happen during our tenure,” said Samaraweera, who held extensive talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Two submarines - one said to be nuclear powered - docked at the Colombo port last year during Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, a move that raised concerns in India.
Hua reiterated that Chinese submarines were on way to take part in the anti-piracy operations at the Gulf of Aden in Somalia through Sri Lanka and used the ports for re-supply.
“These are normal and transparent activities. It also followed the international practices,” she said.
“It is to my knowledge that policy of Sri Lanka side is to support the global anti-piracy campaign. It welcomes the docking of submarines from the friendly countries,” it said.
Hua also defended high interest rates charged for China’s USD five billion loans to Lanka over which Samaraweera had expressed concern.
“Chinese loans to Sri Lanka are at the request of the Sri Lankan side and based on the principle of mutual benefit. It is an arrangement on the consensus building. The loan arrangement serves the interest of Sri Lanka and its people,” she said.
“It (loans) has played a positive role in social and economic development of Sri Lanka,” she said.
Hua, however, welcomed Samaraweera’s comments terming China as an “all weather friend” and the friendship withstood the test of time.