Beijing: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena today began a four-day visit to China to rebalance Colombo's close ties with Beijing amid reports he may seek to renegotiate the ‘expensive' Chinese loans and discuss the future of the suspended USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port project.
On his first visit to China after boosting ties with India with back-to-back visits by him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sirisena will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping here tomorrow during which the two leaders are expected to map out the future of USD five billion Chinese loans which Colombo said were borrowed at high interest rates by previous President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The two Presidents would also discuss the future of the 233-hectare Colombo Port City which was suspended by Sirisena government to investigate whether it obtained environmental clearances as well as to look into allegations of corruption.
The project, which also involves ownership of some of the land on 99 years lease for the Chinese firm China Communications Construction Co (CCCC), triggered concerns in India especially after two Chinese submarines docked at the Colombo harbour.
The project was regarded key to the implementation of Xi's pet Maritime Silk Road project in the Indian Ocean.
Sirisena will also hold talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and later take part in Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2015, which will be held in Boao, Hainan Province.
Several agreements were expected to be signed during his visit, Chinese officials said.
Commenting on Sirisena's visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here today that China respected the recent decision made by Sri Lanka.
“We believe that Sri Lankan government will bear in mind its own interests, move forward the bilateral ties and safe guard the interest of Chinese companies' rights and interests in Sri Lanka,” Hua said.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera who visited China last month to pave the way for Sirisena's visit had said his government will bring Colombo's foreign policy back to centre, meaning pursuing good relations with all the countries, including China, India and the US.