A TOP U.S. navy official has described China’s refusal to allow an American aircraft carrier to visit Hong Kong as a minor hurdle that did not strain ties between the two military forces.
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, said this on Friday in China’s financial hub of Shanghai after the docking of the USS Blue Ridge, the fleet’s command ship.
The U.S. State Department said last week that China recently denied a request for the USS John C. Stennis to visit the city, in an apparent sign of mounting tension in the disputed South China Sea.
Aucoin said he didn’t know why the visit was canceled, although Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his Philippine counterpart had visited the carrier in the South China Sea two weeks earlier, irking Beijing.
A U.S. spokesperson for East Asia said last Friday that the navy has a long record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, including a current visit by the USS Blue Ridge.
However, China’s Foreign Ministry was reported saying that port calls were examined on a “case-by-case basis.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press