ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka is committed to the freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had said during talks with visiting Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera as China is increasingly getting involved in the island's ports.
Onodera visited Hambantota Port which is being jointly operated with China. China also has a container terminal in Colombo.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe recalled that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had also underlined the importance of the freedom of navigation, during his last visit to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is committed to ensure the freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean, he had assured Minister Onodera.
Wickremesinghe had said there will be no foreign military activity in the Hambantota port, and all naval ships will have to get permission from Sri Lanka to visit.
He had mentioned the possibility of having a memorandum on defense co-operation with Japan.
China had restricted the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea (East Sea) and also over flight of aircraft causing ramming fishing boats of countries like Vietnam and the Phillipines.
Philippines won a landmark ruling at an international tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) over its rights in the South China Sea.
China has rejected the ruling causing concern over the respect and enforceability of international rules.
Onodera also visited Trincomalee Port, where Wickremesinghe had invited the country to invest.
Within the next 20 years, the Bay of Bengal would become a hive of maritime activity, and Trincomalee would be play an important role in it, Wickremesinghe had said, inviting Japan to take part in port development in Sri Lanka.
Maritime activity in the Benga of Bengal collapsed after Japan invaded Burma during World War II and never recovered after South Asia gained independence from British, as newly independent nations restricted trade and built state monopolies.
Especially after World War I, with increasing militarization, nationalists gained control of the Japanese polity, defeating liberals, and the country fought in World War II with the Nazis. (Colombo/Aug24/2018)