China cancels USS Wasp’s visit to Hong Kong as tensions rise
China has denied a request for the USS Wasp to make a port visit next month at Hong Kong and has canceled a visit by the head of its navy as tensions between the two nations continue to rise.
Relations strained by a deepening trade war were further inflamed this week by a tentative, $330 million arms deal with Taiwan announced by the Pentagon. The deal, mostly involving spare parts for F-16 fighter jets and other equipment, must be finalized by U.S. companies.
The Wasp is an amphibious assault ship with a crew of about 1,000. The Pentagon downplayed the Chinese decision in a statement Wednesday.
“The Chinese government did not approve a request for a U.S. port visit to Hong Kong by the USS Wasp,” Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon Spokesman, said in a brief statement. “We have a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, and we expect that will continue.”
Chinese officials did not directly tie the Wasp decision to the military deal. But their reaction to the Taiwan deal was firm.
The deal “gravely violated the fundamental principles of international law and relations” and is damaging to China’s sovereignty and security, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a news briefing. He called Taiwan “an inalienable part of Chinese territory.”
Geng said China wants the U.S. to support the one-China principle, cancel the arms deal and cut military communications with Taiwan, to avoid further damage to bilateral relations as well as peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait that separates Taiwan from mainland China.
The U.S. has historically kept close ties to Taiwan, known as the Republic of China, but formally recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China. The U.S. supports the mainland Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China and does not support independence for the island of 25 million people.
But the U.S. has been a major trade partner of Taiwan and a major military supporter. The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the latest military deal “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States” by improving the security and defense capabilities of Taiwan. Taiwan continues to be an important force for “political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region,” the agency said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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