China has said that it won't allow a U.S. Navy warship to visit its northeastern port of Qingdao, marking the second time in recent weeks that Beijing has rebuffed what is a routine request and underscoring trade tensions with Washington and accusations that the U.S. is behind unrest in Hong Kong.
In a statement on Wednesday, U.S. 7th Fleet public affairs officer Cmdr. Reann Mommsen said China had "denied the US Navy's request." She did not name the warship in question and referred questions about the reason for the decision to Beijing.
The refusal to allow the visit comes as Beijing and Washington are locked in a bitter trade war and Chinese officials have cast a wary eye on increasing anti-government violence in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests have gone on for months.
Beginning last year, President Trump has ratcheted up tariffs on Chinese imports and Beijing has retaliated by slapping its own tariffs on U.S. goods.
At the Group of Seven Summit in France, which concluded on Monday, Trump said Chinese trade officials had contacted their U.S. counterparts asking to "get back to the table" and hammer out a trade deal, but China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday he had not heard of any such contact.
Also on Tuesday, China's official Xinhua media accused the U.S. of "the old tricks of bullying and maximum pressure," which it said were aimed at "[coercing] China into accepting its irrational demands."
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, where protests that began peacefully in early June have grown into a direct challenge to Beijing's authority in the city, China has accused the U.S. of aiding the protesters and fomenting unrest.
Earlier this month, China also denied without explanation a request for two U.S. warships, the USS Lake Erie (a guided missile cruiser) and the USS Green Bay (an amphibious transport), to call at Hong Kong.
At the time, U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Nate Christensen said the Navy has "a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong and we expect them to continue."
Although such requests are considered routine courtesies, it is also not unusual for them to be denied in times of heightened tensions between host and guest.
Last September, China turned down a request for an amphibious assault ship, USS Wasp, to call at Hong Kong, citing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. However, two months later it approved a similar request for a visit by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.