US cancels aircraft carrier`s HK visit after China objects

The US navy has cancelled the visit of its aircraft carrier, USS George Washington, to Hong Kong scheduled for this month following objections from China.

Last Updated: Oct 08, 2010, 16:26 PM IST

Beijing: The US navy has cancelled the visit
of its aircraft carrier, USS George Washington, to Hong Kong
scheduled for this month following objections from China, a
media report said Friday.

The cancellation comes after months of strident
objections by China to the presence of US aircraft carriers in
the Yellow Sea, the Hong-Kong based `South China Morning Post`
reported.

US naval commanders, however, say the decision was made
for operational reasons rather than because of objections from
Beijing.

Commander Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the US Pacific
Fleet, confirmed that the USS George Washington strike group
cancelled the visit due to other operational commitments.

"It is not unusual for changes to ship schedules to
occur. Hong Kong is a favourite port of call for US navy
sailors, and we look forward to rescheduling a visit by USS
George Washington at a future date. This cancellation was not
due to a denial by the Chinese government.

"Other ship visits are continuing as planned, including
USS Shiloh which is in Hong Kong right now; and USNS Safeguard
which visited Hong Kong last week," Davis said.

Based in Japan and the only carrier permanently stationed
outside the United States, the George Washington is a symbol
of mounting Chinese concern at the projection of US power in
East Asia.

According to the daily, China`s concerns were conveyed
during a private dinner in Hong Kong six weeks ago by chief
executive of Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa to Admiral Robert Willard, the head of the US Pacific Command.
He reportedly told the Admiral not to contain China and
that US carriers which were exercising in the Yellow Sea were
"too close for Beijing`s comfort".

The news of the cancellation of the ship`s visit came a
day after officials in both Beijing and Washington said that
Defence Minister Liang Guanglie would meet his US counterpart,
Robert Gates at a gathering of regional defence chiefs in
Hanoi next week.
It will be the highest-level bilateral meeting since
Beijing froze military exchanges in January in protest against
the US arms sales to Taiwan.

Tensions with Beijing escalated when Washington raised
concerns over China`s assertiveness in the South China Sea and
staged high-profile exercises with South Korea in the Sea of
Japan and Yellow Sea. China also scrapped a long-planned visit
by Gates to Beijing in June.

PTI