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China denies request for Hong Kong port call by American warship

The USS Wasp, with a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft flying nearby, off Okinawa in March. Photo: Reuters

China has rejected a request for a US warship to make a port call in Hong Kong, the US consulate in Hong Kong said on Tuesday, amid rising tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

“The Chinese government did not approve a request for a port visit to Hong Kong by the USS Wasp. We have a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, and we expect that to continue,” the consulate said.

The amphibious assault ship had been due to stop in Hong Kong next month, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed US military officials.

The Chinese foreign ministry declined to comment on the refusal, saying only that China approved port visits on a case-by-case basis. The vessel is part of a group based in Sasebo in Japan and operating in the Indo-Pacific region.

In 2016, China denied a request for a US carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis to visit Hong Kong during heightened tensions over the South China Sea.

This time the rejection comes as China and the United States are locked in a trade war, with the US and then China imposing tariffs on each other’s goods.

In New York, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a gathering of US business representatives that Washington’s repeated attacks on Beijing threatened the “total destruction” of four decades of gains in China-US relations.

Washington also decided last week to impose sanctions on a unit of the Chinese defence ministry and its director for buying advanced weapons from Russia.

In response, China recalled a navy commander from a visit to the US and postponed a military dialogue between the two countries.

Beijing also summoned US ambassador to China Terry Branstad and acting US defence attaché David Menser to protest against the sanctions.

The ministry said the US had no right to interfere in defence cooperation between China and Russia, and the US sanctions had seriously damaged China-US military relations.

Beijing has also protested against a US proposal to sell US$330 million in arms to Taiwan.

Shen Dingli, an international relations professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the rejection was a way for China to express its dissatisfaction.

Shen said nationalistic voices would grow resentful if Beijing did not take tough action against the US.


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