China has refused to allow a US carrier strike fleet visit Hong Kong for a port call, the US Defense Department has said.
It is believed that the US request for port call permission for US carrier strike group led by the USS John C. Stennis was turnd down in the backdrop of rising tensions over the South China Sea territorial claims.
Pentagon spokesman Commander Bill Urban said that US warship USS Blue Ridge is currently in Hong Kong for a port visit and the United States expected the arraangement to continue. He added that despite the "long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong" their request was denied by China.
Channel News Asia has reported that a US Navy official, who did not want to be identified, said that Chinese Foreign Ministry's commissioner in Hong Kong informed that this request was denied because it was "not convenient" for them at this point of time.
However, the Chinese government and its embassy in Washington chose not comment on this action immediately.
The nuclear- powered Stennis has been patrolling in the South China Sea, which is claimed by China in full. This, coupled with China's massive land-reclamation programme.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter had visited Stennis during its South China Sea patrole.
After Britain handed the global financial hub back to China in 1997, the US military vessels and aircraft have made routine stops in Hong Kong. But these visits have occasionally been halted due to tensions between US and China.
The USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier was also not allowed to enter Hong Kong in 2007 but permission was granted five months later. The Navy official said a visit by the USS Halsey also was denied in 2014.
The US believes that the military ties between the two are the only key to avoid misunderstanding amidst such tension.
Carter has said a robust US military presence in the region is not the reason behind heightened tensions between the foes. The US has in turn accused China of militarizing its outposts in the South China Sea by building airstrips and other facilities.