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World


Sri Lanka will not allow China military use of Hambantota port

Colombo, Aug 22 (UNI) Sri Lanka will not allow China to only use the Hambantota port for military purposes, Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene has said.
The Hambantota port in southern Sri Lanka is located in the world's busiest East-West shipping route and gives China a foothold in a region long dominated by India.
Sri Lanka last year to allowed a Chinese company to operate the port under a 99-year lease. The government said it was forced to lease the port for $1.1 billion because it could not service loans from Beijing to build the facility agreed by former president Mahinda Rajapakse.
Wijewardene met visiting Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera here on Tuesday and he said
the port should be open to all countries to ensure freedom of navigation.
Wijewardene said his country will not permit China to use the port for military purposes only.
Japan's NHK television reported.
Onodera is the first Japanese defence minister to visit Sri Lanka.
He also met President Maithripala Sirisena, who thanked him for donating two coast guard patrol craft, the president's office said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Onodera met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Wijewardardene was present during the meeting.
Onodora later told Japan's NHK television he had discussed the Hambantota issue with Sri Lanka and that there was an agreement that port remains free of military activities, despite the lease.
Japan has pledged to help strengthen Sri Lanka's maritime security, and Onodera would visit Hambantota and Trincomalee, a natural harbour.
UNI SRJ
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