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U.S. warship docks in Hong Kong

HONG KONG, China (AP) — A U.S. Navy warship on Monday made the first visit to Hong Kong by an American ship since November when an aircraft carrier group and two minesweepers were separately turned away, dealing a blow to improving China-U.S. relations.

The USS Blue Ridge and its 700 sailors would stay in Hong Kong for a couple of days, Capt. David Lausman told reporters on board the ship.

The arrival of the ship comes two months after the USS Kitty Hawk and its strike group carrying about 8,000 sailors hoping to join their families in Hong Kong for a holiday break were refused entry to the territory’s deep water port. Hong Kong authorities said the ships did not have clearance from Beijing.

Earlier that month, two minesweepers running low on fuel and buffeted by winds in the South China Sea requested permission to wait out the storm in Hong Kong, but were also turned away.

No reasons were given by Beijing, although Chinese officials later suggested the move was a reaction to Washington’s decision to grant an award to Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and to sell weapons to its rival Taiwan.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to split Tibet from China and frequently rails against any country that honors him or politicians who meet with him. Beijing considers self-governing Taiwan a breakaway province that it hopes to reclaim.

The Kitty Hawk and its group remained just outside Hong Kong waters for more than 24 hours awaiting permission, but in the end returned to their home base in Japan. After they had left, Beijing then said the ships could enter but by that time they were already several hundred miles (kilometers) away.

The move drove a wedge between U.S. and Chinese authorities who had seen relations improve over recent years. Pentagon officials expressed confusion and concern at the decision and called for greater transparency in Beijing’s military decision making.

During a visit last month to China, Adm. Timothy Keating, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said he had expressed U.S. concern at the decision to deny entrance to the Kitty Hawk and the minesweepers.

He said China was now more understanding of the situation, and suggested that future requests to dock in Hong Kong would not be turned down.

The Blue Ridge is the flagship of the Commander Seventh Fleet and is stationed in Yokosuka, Japan.

Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has long been a favored port call for U.S. and other countries due to its bargain shopping, upscale restaurants and nightlife.
U.S. warship docks in Hong Kong – found here.

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January 28, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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