China has turned down a request for a US warship to visit Hong Kong amid rising tension between the two superpowers over trade and military moves.
The USS Wasp was due to make a port call in the former British colony next month, but diplomats have said Beijing had blocked the amphibious assault ship from visiting.
The decision is the second in two years by China despite many years of “successful” port visits by US ships in Hong Kong, US diplomats said.
In 2016, Beijing denied a request for a USS John C Stennis carrier strike group to visit Hong Kong during a time of tension over its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Aside from the trade dispute between the two countries, China has been unhappy about Washington’s move to sanction a Chinese military agency and its director for buying Russian jets and a surface-to-air missile system. It summoned the US ambassador in Beijing on Saturday to complain about the move and postponed joint military talks in protest at the US decision.
Deal on aircraft spare parts also stirs anger
Beijing also voiced “strong dissatisfaction” on Tuesday at US plans to sell $330 million worth of military and aircraft parts to Taiwan. The parts include spares for F-16 fighter planes and the C-130 cargo plane.
China, which claims that Taiwan is a rebel province, said the deal “severely violates” international laws and that it had “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to the sale, AFP reported.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing that Beijing had lodged an official protest with the US and that the deal could “cause severe damage to US-China relations.”
China has stepped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen took office two years ago, including staging a series of military exercises near the island.
Taiwan welcomed the US announcement on Tuesday, saying it would help the island strengthen its defense capabilities. “As Taiwan faces gradually heightened threats, the US arm sales would … also boost Taiwan’s confidence in strengthening self-defense to help maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Taiwan’s presidential office said the island’s government would continue to increase its defense investment and “maintain close communication and cooperation” with the US on security issues.
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse