South China Sea gets hot, US ships denied Hong Kong port visit

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USS Stennis

South China Sea is getting hot, China has just denied a U.S. aircraft carrier entry into a Hong Kong port. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong has issued their statement on Thursday saying that it wouldn’t allow the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and its four accompanying escort vessels to make a scheduled stop in Hong Kong port. The Stennis together with its escorts are planning a long-planned port stay of about five days starting May 3.

“We were recently informed that a request for a port visit by a U.S. carrier strike group, including the USS John C. Stennis and accompanying vessels, to Hong Kong was denied,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Bill Urban said in a statement, via the CNN.

“We have a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, including with the current visit of the (command ship) USS Blue Ridge, and we expect that will continue.” Urban added.

The Stennis strike group which consists of USS John C. Stennis, a 97,000-ton, 1100-foot-long Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and its armada of escort vessels have entered the hotly contested South China Sea on March 1 to demonstrate the American’s commitment in the region.

The South China Sea is currently at the center of heightened tensions between the United States and China, with Beijing beefing its own presence and rapidly militarizing man-made islands in the contested waters. The tension has grown more prominent as the Chinese have expanded its territorial claims and the US has decided to check and counter their advance.

This is not the first time that an American warship has been denied of port access in the region. In 2007 the US Navy frigate USS Reuben James, which plans to take a holiday port call for its crew, was denied access to Hong Kong port. Also in the same year, the USS Kitty Hawk has been denied port visit to Hong Kong.

In 2014, another US warship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Haley has also denied access to port.

The port access denial comes just two weeks after US Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the Stennis while the ship together with its escorts were operating in the region. There’s no immediate response from Chinese government and the Hong Kong Security Bureau has declined to comment about the port denial decision, saying that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region wouldn’t make any comment about the individual visit application of foreign warships.

Currently, it remains unclear why the US aircraft carrier was denied access to the Hong Kong port.

Picture Courtesy: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ron Reeves/Wikimedia Commons

Video Courtesy: BBC World News/Youtube.com

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