Tensions in the South China Sea continue slowly mounting, as China has denied the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis permission to make a port call in Hong Kong.
The snub was clearly an expression of Chinese anger with America’s posture in the region, as John C. Stennis was the ship visited by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in mid-April.
The South China Morning Post inquired with China’s Foreign Ministry after a U.S. official announced Beijing had “said ‘no’ to the carrier.”
The Foreign Ministry sent a written reply that offered no explanation for the denial, merely explaining that port call requests are considered on a “case-by-case basis, in accordance with sovereignty principles and specific circumstances.”
In addition to Carter’s time aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier, the SCMP suspects China is also particularly annoyed by the U.S. Pacific Command moving “six powerful A-10 Thunderbolt fighter jets near the Scarborough Shoal, which China occupies but Manila also claims.”
The SCMP notes that China previously denied access to Hong Kong’s port to the USS Kitty Hawk in 2007, because Beijing was angry about an American missile deal with Taiwan, and President George W. Bush meeting with the Dalai Lama. Five months later, when relations between China and the U.S. stabilized, the Kitty Hawk was permitted to dock in Hong Kong.
The John C. Stennis visit was intended to be a significant event, with the U.S. consulate sending out invitations for public tours, which must now be canceled.
Reuters reports the Pentagon confirmed China’s denial soon Friday morning, with a spokesman saying the denial was “recent” and was issued by Beijing despite “a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong.”
The Pentagon also noted that the warship USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, is currently in Hong Kong on a port visit, which is expected to continue as scheduled.