Colombo (News1st) – Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onedera has told Japanese media that Japan wants Sri Lanka’s southern Hambantota port to be “free of military activities”, amid concerns in the region over the leasing of the facility to China.
Onedera, who arrived in Colombo, was the first Japanese defence minister ever to visit Sri Lanka and his visit came amid regional concerns over growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka.
Japanese NHK television, who interviewed Onedera after his meetings with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, reported that the Japanese Defence Minister had raised the Chinese issue with Sri Lanka. Onedera had said, despite China’s long-term lease, it is internationally acknowledged that the port should be free and open to the public.
During his visit, Onodera visited the Eastern Defence Command at the Trincomalee Naval Base and also engaged in an inspection tour of the oil tank complex at the China Harbour before visiting the Hambantota Port.