China's President Xi Jinping Tuesday announced increased defence and maritime security
17th Sep 2014
China's President Xi Jinping Tuesday announced increased defence and maritime security cooperation with Sri Lanka, whose Beijing-funded strategic port developments have caused unease in neighbouring India.
Xi said his proposal for a 21st century maritime silk road and his host President Mahinda Rajapakse's vision to turn the Indian Ocean island into a regional shipping and aviation hub were "cut out for one another".
Both believed they should realise the benefits of the silk road plan, an initiative to secure trade routes through economic diplomacy, by "deepening" their cooperation, Xi said after talks with Rajapakse at his sea-front office in the capital.
He pledged to strengthen cooperation in "areas such as port construction and development, development and construction of coastal industrial parks, maritime economy and maritime security".
In a joint statement after bilateral talks, the two sides said they agreed to step up defence and marine security cooperation, and also search Sri Lankan coasts for possible wreckage of a 15th century Chinese fleet.
"The two sides agreed to strengthen defence cooperation... and to cooperate in the areas of defence-related science and technology, exchange of military academics, and provide logistic support," the joint statement said.
China is increasingly asserting its influence in Sri Lanka, a midway point on one of the world's busiest international shipping lanes.
It is already the largest investor in the island nation, having financed the construction of a deep-sea port and an international airport.
Before leaving Wednesday for India, the final leg of a three-nation South Asian tour that has already taken him to the Maldives, Xi is due to kick off building work on another Beijing-funded $1.4 billion port city in Colombo.
On Tuesday, he along with President Rajapakse launched Sri Lanka's biggest electricity generator, a Chinese-funded 900-megawatt coal power plant located less than 200 kilometres (125 miles) from India.
Soon after connecting the Chinese power pant to the national grid, Rajapakse, who called China "a sincere and a trusted friend who has assisted Sri Lanka at all times" announced slashing domestic electricity tariffs by 25 percent.