China denies US Navy's request for warship to visit Qingdao

A picture of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie issued by the US Navy. American military warships have occasionally made visits to China, most recently in 2017, a defence official said.
A picture of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie issued by the US Navy. American military warships have occasionally made visits to China, most recently in 2017, a defence official said.PHOTO: US NAVY

WASHINGTON • China has denied a request for a US Navy warship to visit the Chinese port city of Qingdao in recent days, a US defence official has told Reuters, at a time of tense ties between the world's two largest economies.

This marks at least the second time China has denied a request by the United States this month, having earlier rejected a request for two US Navy ships to visit Hong Kong, as the political crisis in the former British colony deepened.

The defence official, asking not to be named, on Tuesday said the destroyer was supposed to visit on Sunday but China denied the request prior to that.

American military warships have occasionally made visits to China, most recently in 2017, the defence official said. The last US Navy ship to visit Qingdao was the destroyer Benfold, in 2016.

Asked why the US request was denied, the American defence official said the question should be directed to Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, speaking at a daily briefing in Beijing, said he had no understanding of the situation and referred questions to the military.

The Ministry of Defence did not respond to a request for comment.

A trade war between the world's two largest economies has damaged global growth and raised market fears that the world economy could tip into recession.

Earlier this month, China denied a request by the US Navy transport dock ship Green Bay and guided-missile cruiser Lake Erie to visit Hong Kong.

 
 

The proposed visit would have taken place at a time when anti-government protests in Hong Kong are posing the biggest challenge to China's Communist Party rulers since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

China's 2019 defence spending will rise 7.5 per cent from last year, according to a budget report issued this year. Its military build-up has raised concerns among its Asian neighbours and Western allies, particularly as Beijing has become more assertive in territorial rows in the East and South China seas and over Taiwan, a self-ruled territory Beijing claims as its own.

Last year, the US military put countering China, along with Russia, at the centre of a new national defence strategy.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline 'China denies US Navy's request for warship to visit Qingdao'. Print Edition | Subscribe