Beijing: China and Sri Lanka on Thursday agreed
to deepen their burgeoning defence ties as the powerful
visiting Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa held a
crucial meeting with a top Chinese military commander.
The Chinese offer to enhance defence ties with Sri
Lanka came during a key meeting between Defence Secretary
Rajapaksa and Chen Bingde, the Chief of General Staff of
Chinese People`s Liberation Army (PLA).
China was willing to work with Sri Lanka to further
enhance friendly exchanges and cooperation between the two
nations and armed forces, to promote their comprehensive and
cooperative partnership, Chen said.
There has been continuous consolidation and
development of China-Sri Lanka relations in recent years,
state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Chen as saying
He said Beijing appreciated Sri Lanka`s firm support
on the issues of Taiwan and Tibet, which were related to
China`s core interests.
Rajapaksa, the brother of President Mahenda Rajapaksa,
said the government and armed forces of Sri Lanka appreciated
China`s support and would continue to advance friendly and
cooperative relations between the two nations and two armed
Rajapaksa`s visit, following last month’s tour of Sri
Lankan Foreign Minister G.L Peiris, is seen as significant.
China, which has emerged as Sri Lanka`s biggest donor
last year with a billion dollar aid replacing Japan, is also
one of biggest supplier of weapons to its army, particularly
during the height of its war against the LTTE.
Western donors have curbed aid to Sri Lanka over
human rights issues and the government`s handling of the final
stages of the ethnic conflict with Tamil Tiger separatists,
which ended last May.
China is funding large part of the USD 1.5 billion
Southern Hambantota deep water port which is to commence
operations in November.
The port is expected make Sri Lanka an important
transhipment hub as it was close to major international
These initiatives have been a matter of concern in
India where it is looked upon as China`s attempt to expand its
sphere of regional influence into Lanka.
However, Sri Lanka has denied it would provide
facilities for a military base for China, saying it is only a