Chinese research vessels such as Xiang Yang Hong 03 welcome but won’t conduct deep sea exploration research or indulge in oceanographic data collection while in the Maldivian waters, according to the Maldives government.

Chinese research vessels involved in deep sea exploration or oceanographic data collection in the Indian Ocean have often been looked at with suspicion by India. So as news about a Chinese research vessel headed for the Maldives swirled, the government said port calls by ships from friendly countries were welcome but Xiang Yang Hong 03 would not conduct any research while in the Maldivian waters. The vessel operated by China’s Third Institute of Oceanography, under the Ministry of Natural Resources, was inducted in 2016. China has developed the world’s largest fleet of civilian research vessels, according to a recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). While these ships engaged in deep sea exploration overtly support scientific and commercial objectives, they are also being used to advance Beijing’s strategic ambitions, the study said. An analysis of oceanographic data collection missions in the Indian Ocean since 2020 reveals the involvement of about 64 active Chinese research vessels. The study surmised that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can leverage the oceanographic data collection from these missions to enhance its knowledge of the dynamic undersea environment—a crucial requirement to facilitate deployment of nuclear-powered submarines in the high seas….Read Less

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