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BEIJING/NEW DELHI: China said on Friday it hoped “relevant parties” would refrain from interfering with its legitimate maritime activities, after New Delhi voiced concern over a Chinese military ship’s planned visit to a port in India’s southern neighbour Sri Lanka.

India worries that the Chinese-built and leased port of Hambantota will be used by China as a military base in India’s backyard. The $1.5 billion port is near the main shipping route from Asia to Europe.

Shipping data from Refinitiv Eikon showed Chinese research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 was en route to Hambantota and due to arrive on Aug. 11, at a time when Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in seven decades. India has provided Sri Lanka with nearly $4 billion in support this year alone.

During a weekly briefing late on Thursday, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said the government was monitoring the planned visit of the Chinese ship, adding that New Delhi would protect its security and economic interests. India has already lodged a verbal protest with the Sri Lankan government against the ship’s visit, Reuters reported on Thursday. In response to questions from Reuters, China’s foreign ministry said Beijing had always exercised freedom of the high seas lawfully. “China hopes that the relevant parties will view and report on China’s marine scientific research activities correctly and refrain from interfering with normal and legitimate maritime activities,” the ministry said in a statement.

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