April 2016 – HONG KONG – The Chinese government on Thursday denied a Navy flotilla access to the port in Hong Kong, Pentagon officials said Friday, the latest sign of escalating tension between the United States and China. The rare refusal to allow the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, and several other vessels accompanying it, to visit the port comes two weeks after the Stennis hosted the defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, on a visit to the South China Sea, where the United States is challenging what it sees as excessive maritime claims by China.
During the trip, Mr. Carter criticized the Chinese and said the United States would work with its allies in the region. “America’s policy continues to be one valued on principles of peaceful resolutions of disputes, lawful settlement of things like territorial disputes like the South China Sea, or anywhere else, freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce,” Mr. Carter said at the time.
The denial was the first time the Chinese government had refused to allow an American aircraft carrier into the port in Hong Kong since August 2014, according to Pentagon officials. The Navy had asked the Chinese to let the Stennis and accompanying vessels visit the port next week, the officials said. There is currently a United States Navy ship in port in Hong Kong, the Blue Ridge, Kristin Haworth, a spokeswoman for the American Consulate in Hong Kong, said by telephone. The Blue Ridge is the command ship of the United States Seventh Fleet. “We have a long track record of successful visits to Hong Kong, including the U.S.S. Blue Ridge, and we expect that to continue,” she said. American naval vessels are frequent visitors to Hong Kong, regarded as one of the most desirable ports of call because of its night life and shopping.
Before the 1997 return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule, entry was never a problem because the city was governed by Britain. Since the transfer, the Navy has continued to make port calls in Hong Kong, but the Chinese government has on occasion rejected American requests. In 2007, China denied access to another aircraft carrier, the Kitty Hawk, as well as two minesweepers. In 2002, a guided-missile destroyer, the Curtis Wilbur, was also denied entry. The families of crew members from the Stennis and other vessels had been told that the ships planned to make a port stop, and many had already bought tickets to visit the sailors while they were there. –NY Times