China has cleared a U.S. warship to visit Hong Kong next week, in a surprise concession by Beijing despite rising Sino-U.S. tensions.
"We have received clearance from China for the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to visit Hong Kong in the near future," said Matthew Dolbow, a spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong. "Hong Kong is a favorite port of call for U.S. Navy sailors, and the ship's crew is looking forward to the visit."
At the Pentagon, Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Billy Ray Davis said, "The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has approved a USS Nimitz visit to Hong Kong in the near future."
The U.S. warship's visit to Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, would come despite strains between the United States and China over planned U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, Internet controls and hacking, trade and currency quarrels, along with a likely imminent visit by the Dalai Lama to Washington.
The sale of a $6.4 billion arms package to Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China claims as its own, sparked vehement criticism from Beijing, with the official China Daily saying it "inevitably cast a long shadow on Sino-U.S. relations."
In addition to scaling down security relations and curtailing dialogue, Beijing has said it would sanction U.S. firms that sell weapons to Taiwan.
Senior Chinese military officers have proposed that their country boost defense spending and possibly sell some U.S. bonds to punish Washington for its latest round of proposed arms sales to Taiwan.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Beijing did not know about the visit and it was not immediately clear when Beijing granted the clearance, with the port call having been in the works for some time, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Palmer Pinckney, aboard the Blue Ridge, command ship for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, said by telephone: "We have diplomatic clearance" for the visit by the nuclear-powered Nimitz, based in San Diego.
Beijing has been known to deny entry to U.S. warships to Hong Kong at politically sensitive moments.
In 2007, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk was denied entry to Hong Kong as it neared the city's waters on the understanding the visit would be allowed, only to find Beijing wouldn't give final clearance.
ReutersLast Mod: 12 Şubat 2010, 08:39