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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 14:45 GMT
China stops US warship's HK call
Chinese President Jiang Zemin and US President George W Bush at the Apec conference in Shanghai
Despite the smiles, China-US relations remain strained
China has refused to let a US warship make a routine visit to Hong Kong, apparently in protest at deepening US-Taiwan ties.

The Chinese government and people feel nothing but strong indignation over the action

Chinese premier Zhu Rongji
The refusal came as Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji told visiting US senators that the US should not have given a visa to Taiwan's Defence Minister, Tang Yiau-ming,

Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province which should be reunited with the mainland.

It is extremely sensitive about any relations its diplomatic allies pursue with the island.

Taiwan's Mr Tang was allowed to visit Florida earlier this month for a conference sponsored by US arms manufacturers at which he met two senior US officials.

But Mr Zhu said the visit broke US-China agreements.

Diplomatic snub

"This has interfered in China's internal affairs and obstructed China's efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Taiwan question," he told US senators Daniel Inouye and Ted Stevens.

There was no reason given for the disapproval and I am not going to speculate about it

US spokeswoman

In what appears to be a further snub, Beijing said last week that Chinese naval ships would not visit US ports during a foreign tour this year.

There has also been speculation that China is using a proposed visit to the US by leader-in-waiting Hu Jintao as a bargaining chip to express its displeasure.

China's latest complaint was over a leaked Pentagon report which said it could be a potential targets for US nuclear missiles in the event of an attack on Taiwan.

"The Chinese Government denied a request for the USS Curtis Wilbur... to visit Hong Kong April 5 to 9. This would have been a routine port call," a spokeswoman for the US consulate in Hong Kong, Barbara Zigli, told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

"There was no reason given for the disapproval and I am not going to speculate about it," she said.

US warships often make port calls in Hong Kong in order to re-supply.

Since Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, Beijing has occasionally withheld permission for US warships to visit.

The most recent refusal is thought to have come in May 2001, shortly after the two countries got involved in a diplomatic row over a US spy plane's collision with a Chinese jet fighter off the southern island of Hainan.

See also:

20 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Diplomatic silence over 'bugged' plane
19 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Terrorism war unites Bush and Jiang
10 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: China
19 Feb 02 | Americas
Timeline: US-China relations
11 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
China attacks US military role
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