We can’t say we’re too surprised, but this is still a move that does nothing to alleviate the strain in relations between China and the U.S. Next week, a US Navy aircraft carrier strike group was due to make a port call in Hong Kong, but the Chinese government has decided to keep that from happening. The U.S.S. John C. Stennis and its group of accompanying warships are currently operating in the western Pacific Ocean.
China blocked a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier from arriving at a port in Hong Kong as tensions ratcheted up over disputed islands in the South China Sea, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed Friday.
The USS John C. Stennis and escort ships had planned to visit the port next week, Stars & Stripes reports. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not explain why it denied the request.
“We have a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, including with the current visit of the USS Blue Ridge, and we expect that will continue,” Cmdr. Bill Urban told Fox News. The USS Blue Ridge is a Navy command ship.
China claims virtually all of the strategically vital South China Sea and has tried to shore up its control by building islands on coral reefs complete with airstrips, harbors and radar stations.
Satellite images provided to Fox News earlier this month showed how China deployed new fighter jets to Woody Island in that same region.
Still, China claimed it wanted to resolve the longstanding dispite through dialogue and accused the U.S. of raising tensions by challenging the Chinese actions with what are known as freedom of navigation patrols. Taiwan, the Philippines and others claim parts of the sea.