China is expanding its economic, trade and military ties with Sri Lanka providing US$ 100 million (Rs. 13.2 billion) for army welfare projects initiated by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence, the Colombo media said. Plans are afoot to set up accommodation and infrastructure facilities in army camps in the north and east with Chinese assistance. The maintenance of military camps in strategic locations throughout the country is essential for national security, the Government has long argued despite pressure from some western nations and India to reduce the military presence in the north and east. The establishment of military camps in locations such as Mannar, Palaly, Elephant Pass, Pooneryn, Thalladi, Karainagar, and Mullaitivu began in the 1950s with a view to enhancing internal security. Infrastructure and accommodation facilities in these camps will be built for the benefit of security forces personnel, a senior Finance Ministry official said. The Chinese financial assistance to the military in the north and east comes ahead of a five-day visit starting next Wednesday (August 29) �by Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie together with a high-powered defence delegation. The high ranking minister was Chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army from 2002-2007 and later a State Councillor and member of the Central Military Commission of China. China has also announced a grant of US $1.5 million (Rs. 198 million) for modernisation of the Defence Services College in Colombo for children of security forces personnel and the police. The college has classes from Grade 6 to 12. This modernization project was part of the army welfare initiative of the Ministry of Defence, he said. Meanwhile, the SL government recently signed an agreement with China to buy six MA-60 aircraft at US$ 105.4 million (Rs. 13.8 billion), he revealed, in a deal that is yet to be made public. Chinese assistance to Sri Lanka is divided into buyer’s credit, preferential buyer’s credit and loans. These are offered via the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China. China also provides limited grant aid under the Chinese government’s economic and technical cooperation programme, the senior Finance Ministry official said. The Chinese Defence Minister will visit the Sapugaskande Defence Staff College, the Panagoda army cantonment, Galle and possibly Hambantota, during his stay in the country. Another high-powered delegation here next month The Chinese People’s Congress’ Vice President U. Bango will arrive in Sri Lanka next month, leading a 96-member delegation, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said.�The delegation will arrive on September 15 and visit Hambantota and the Northern and Eastern provinces. They will also visit Chinese-funded ventures including road construction projects.]]>

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