Officials cagey about Chinese space-tracking ship

By Scott Yeoman

The Chinese Consulate says the Yuan Wang 6 is here to replenish supplies and so its 300 crew members can have a rest. Photo / Scott Yeoman
The Chinese Consulate says the Yuan Wang 6 is here to replenish supplies and so its 300 crew members can have a rest. Photo / Scott Yeoman

There are conflicting reports as to whether a ship tied up at Queens Wharf is part of the Chinese navy.

The New Zealand Defence Force and Ports of Auckland confirmed yesterday that the Yuan Wang 6 arrived on Sunday and was a space-tracking vessel controlled by the Chinese navy.

This detail was later denied by its shipping agency Cosco and omitted in statements by both the Chinese Consulate General and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Lieutenant Commander Vicki Rendall of the Royal New Zealand Navy confirmed yesterday morning that "yes, it is a Chinese navy ship".

Ports of Auckland senior communications advisor Dee Radhakrishnan echoed this shortly after.

"The Chinese ship at Queens Wharf West is the Yuan Wang 6 - Chinese space-tracking ship, operated by the Chinese navy."

But managing director of Cosco NZ Liu Feng said the 222m ship was not associated with the navy and was just a research vessel.

"She is a scientific research vessel and has nothing to do with the navy. More specifically, she tracks and controls satellites and helps guide them into orbits."

Mr Feng said the ship had just completed a mission for a commercial communication satellite.

The Chinese Consulate General was guarded when asked about the ship.

"We have contacted the official on the ship in charge of media affairs and we were told that they will not accept any media interviews during their stay."

But when pushed further the Vice-Consul, Zhang Fangfang, released the following statement.

"Thanks for your attention for the Chinese space-tracking ship Yuan Wang 6. Yuan Wang 6 arrived in Auckland on May 19 after successful completion of a space-tracking assignment, to replenish supplies and allow the crew a refreshing rest."

A spokesman for Mfat also overlooked the navy detail.

"The Yuan Wang 6, currently in NZ waters, is a Chinese vessel used for satellite tracking. The visit of the Yuan Wang 6 follows similar visits in the past by space-tracking vessels, most recently in 2011."

The ship carries 300 crew members and is due to stay for a week.

- NZ Herald

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