Chinese authorities are seeking permission to explore Sri Lanka's coastline for possible Chinese ship wrecks from the ancient Silk Route era, an official said Wednesday.
Sri Lanka, an Indian Ocean island, was a key trading post along the ancient Silk Route which saw silk, spices and handicrafts travel by road and sea between Asia and Europe.
The seas around the island's southern port of Galle are known to have at least 75 ancient ship wrecks, of which 25 have been well documented.
The unsolicited offer by Science Foundation of China to deploy experts to look for vessels along Sri Lanka's coast was under consideration, Director General of Archaeology Senarath Disanayake told AFP.
He said, however, that the Chinese had asked to keep half of all antiquities brought up from the ocean bed -- a condition Sri Lanka could not agree to.
"They also want us to pay for a vessel to carry out the exploration and that is something we can't afford," Disanayake said.
China is increasing its presence in Sri Lanka with the construction of a deep-sea port in the island's south as well as several other key infrastructure projects.
Sri Lanka's immediate neighbour India has become sensitive about increasing Chinese influence on the island.