That’s right. It was not an bureaucratic accident, China has been denying American Navy access to Hong Kong harbor as punishment for U.S. for arms sales to Taiwan at such a sensitive time in Taiwanese-Mainland relations and Bush awarding medals to the Dalia Lama for political reasons. As the article mentions China has not sent this strong a message of displeasure since we (mistakenly) bombed the Chinese embassy in former-Yugoslavia in 1999. I remember that clearly, as I lived in Shanghai at the time and was warned to stay in my room that day due to threat of violence. Luckily for me, most people assumed only white people were American (including the German and French students at my school) and I was from Africa. No one bothered me, well they just stared as they normally did.

There was also the time were American the American spy plane crashed off the coast of China, in international waters, which came to be known as the “Hainan Incident”, where China held America survivors for a few days, insisting that America apologize (shuo keqi).

It is obviously the CCP is more concerned about the Taiwanese issue then they are letting on in the media. I’m sure Taipei is watching this closely. Since the 17th Party Congress, Beijing has taken a conciliatory tone toward Taiwan, but I am wondering how long that is going to land, as the Taiwanese seem to have rejected the overtures.

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November 30, 2007

China Explains Decision to Block U.S. Ships

BEIJING, Nov. 29 — China denied permission for a United States aircraft carrier battle group and other American warships to visit Hong Kong last week because of the Bush administration’s proposal to sell upgrades to Patriot antimissile batteries to Taiwan, Chinese state media said today.

Beijing also said today that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had not told President Bush in a meeting Wednesday that the decisions to deny the ship visits were a “misunderstanding,” as the White House had reported after the talks.

“Reports that Foreign Minister Yang said in the United States that it was a misunderstanding do not accord with the facts,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said in Beijing today, adding that China had “grave concern” over United States weapons sales to Taiwan.

Mr. Liu said that Mr. Bush’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in Washington in October had also damaged ties between the two countries.

The decision to cancel a Thanksgiving port visit to Hong Kong by the American aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and its battle group has renewed tension in the sometimes troubled relationship between the American military and its counterpart in China, which is rapidly modernizing.

Without giving a reason for denying the Kitty Hawk visit, Beijing later reversed its decision, citing “humanitarian grounds,” to allow some of the ships’ sailors to meet up with their families who had traveled to Hong Kong to meet them. But by then it was too late, and the battle group with its 8,000 sailors was returning to its base in Yokosuka in Japan.

Days before the Kitty Hawk was turned away, China refused permission for two United States Navy minesweepers to shelter in Hong Kong’s harbor during a storm and to take on supplies. The ships were later refueled at sea, the Navy said.

The Pentagon lodged a formal protest Wednesday with the Chinese government after senior United States naval commanders said they were particularly troubled by the unexplained decision to deny refuge to the minesweepers.

Today, The Global Times, a tabloid published by the Communist Party newspaper The People’s Daily, quoted an unidentified senior Chinese navy captain as saying that Taiwan had become an even more sensitive issue because of President Chen Shui-bian’s campaign to win a seat for Taiwan at the United Nations.

“But, the U.S. went ahead and sold Taiwan Patriot II missile systems and related equipment,” the captain was quoted as saying. “This obviously sends Chen Shui-bian a wrong signal. That is why a lot of activity between China and America was stopped.” The captain told The Global Times that Washington had behaved irrationally by trying to go ahead with the Hong Kong visit after it had announced the Patriot sale. “Under normal circumstances, the U.S. Navy should have changed its port visiting plans,” the captain said.

“After the U.S. seriously harms China’s interests, it still asks for an embrace from China,” the officer said. “There is no reason in the world for us to do so.”

Hong Kong has been a favorite rest and recreation stop for the American Navy but, since the city reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, Beijing has suspended port calls when it wanted to send messages of protest to Washington over American actions.

Port visits were suspended in 1999 when the United States bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and again after the 2001 mid-air collision.

The new dispute has come to the fore even as the Pentagon has been striving to improve ties with the Chinese military, a relationship that reached a low in 2001 after the collision off the Chinese coast of an American Navy surveillance aircraft and a Chinese attack jet.

On visits to China in recent months, senior American officials, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and top military officers have called on China to reveal more about the reasons for its rapid increase in defense spending and about its long-term strategic goals.

They have also encouraged more exchanges of senior officers to improve communications and to build trust and understanding.

The sides have agreed to work toward installing a hotline that could reduce the risk of conflict arising from accidents or miscalculations.

Shortly after Mr. Gates visited Beijing this month, the Pentagon announced that it would sell Taiwan upgrades to its Patriot missile system for about $940 million.

Security experts said Beijing was strongly opposed to the sale because it could help Taiwan counter the almost 1,000 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles the Chinese military has arrayed against it.

“This is very sensitive to the Chinese side,” said Andrei Chang, an expert in Hong Kong on the Chinese and Taiwan militaries and editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review magazine. “They recognize that this kind of technology will change the military balance in the Taiwan Strait.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said Wednesday that the Chinese military attache in Washington, Maj. Gen. Zhao Ning, had been summoned to meet with David Sedney, the deputy assistant secretary for China issues.

“Mr. Sedney expressed our deep regret and concern with China’s denial of diplomatic clearance for the two minesweepers and the Kitty Hawk,” Mr. Morrell said.

For the United States, friction caused by the port visits is a reminder of the difficulty facing Washington as it attempts to engage the increasingly powerful Chinese armed forces while continuing to be Taiwan’s most important military ally, analysts said.

The Pentagon and other foreign militaries agree that a top priority for the Chinese is to develop a force that has the firepower to enforce Beijing’s claim over Taiwan and deter or defeat the United States if it tries to defend the island.

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Update

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