HONG KONG, April 30 (UPI) -- China denied a U.S. aircraft carrier entry into a Hong Kong port, Pentagon officials said Friday.
"We were recently informed that a request for a port visit by a U.S. carrier strike group, including the USS John C. Stennis and accompanying vessels, to Hong Kong was denied," Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban said.
The denial came as tension rise between the United States and China after Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter visited the Stennis while it was stationed in the South China Sea. The United States is attempting to challenge Beijing's claim to more than 80 percent of the maritime area.
Carter said that United States was committed to maintaining peace, but sent the Stennis to the South China Sea to ensure that all nations are able to freely navigate the area.
"We want to reduce tensions, but we also want everybody in the region to be able to rise and develop in their own way -- including the Philippines, by the way, which happens also to be a longstanding and very staunch treaty ally of the United States," he said.
Shi Yinhong, a foreign policy adviser to the State Council and director of the Center on American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing told the Boston Globe the Stennis had become a "symbol of efforts to spark strategic tensions between China and the United States."
"The cancellation is a snapshot of the current intensity in China-U.S. security relations," he said. "Without significant security need, routine port calls would not have been canceled."
American naval vessels often port in Hong Kong. Currently, the USS Blue Ridge, a U.S. Navy command ship is in port in Hong Kong.
"We have a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, including with the current visit of the USS Blue Ridge, and we expect that will continue," spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong Darragh Paradiso said.