Strategic String

Jan 01, 2009 (LBO) – A port being built in southern Sri Lanka near the main shipping route across the Indian Ocean is part of a Chinese effort to project influence and protect vital trade lanes, a US military study said. But the Washington Times also quoted a US Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong as calling the idea of China having a “string of pearls” strategy a “fantasy.”

“It’s true that China is conducting cooperation with some Asian countries in various fields including ports developing, but it’s justifiable business for China and the joint ventures are for commercial purposes only,” Wang was quoted as saying.

“People should see China’s activities with a sensible and more balanced approach. As facts have proven, China’s activities are for mutual benefit and peaceful purposes, constituting no threat to anyone else.”

Construction work on the port in Hambantota is ahead of schedule, Sri Lanka Ports Authority officials said.

It is being built mainly with a Chinese loan and by two Chinese construction firms.

It is envisaged first as a bunkering facility and later a port for general cargo vessels and eventually to tranship containers.

Hambantota was chosen as the site for the new port be