China on Friday said it respects Sri Lanka's territorial integrity and emphasised that the security of the Hambantota Sea Port was in the hands of the island nation, amidst reports that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was looking to review possible "security lapses" at the port.
Rajapaksa on Thursday said he would renegotiate the security arrangements at Hambantota Port, which was leased to a Chinese state-run company for 99 years in 2017.
"I would not renegotiate the commercial agreement, what I am worried about is the security aspect of it," Rajapaksa had said, adding he was looking to review possible "security lapses" at the port.
The Hambantota Port, which is 665 acres of reclaimed land from the sea at Galle Face, is a project funded by China and built by a Chinese company.
In response to the president's comments, the Chinese embassy said, "China reiterates once again that it highly respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. The security and control of Hambantota port is entirely in the hands of the Sri Lankan government and the Navy which is no different from other ports of Sri Lanka."
The embassy welcomed Rajapaksa's position of not wanting to renegotiate the commercial deal.
The previous Maithripala Sirisena government had entered into a 99-year lease with China in 2017 as a settlement of its debt by way of equity.
The Rajapaksas, in the Opposition then, had criticised the long-term lease.
This is the second time Gotabaya has raised questions regarding the port.
Soon after his election as President, Rajapaksa had said: "The deal has to be renegotiated. Giving a small loan for investment is a different thing but giving a strategically important economic harbour is not acceptable. That we should have controlled."
India is the only major country in the world to have opposed the OBOR project on the grounds of territorial sovereignty, given that its flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which India has always maintained is its territory.
India is the only major country in the world to have opposed the infrastructure projects of China involving other countries on the grounds of territorial sovereignty, given that its flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which India has always maintained as its territory.