U.S. Navy families spent thousands on ill-fated Hong Kong visit
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images There’s been a lot of speculation over China’s last minute decision to deny the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and its escort ships entry into Hong Kong harbor for a long-planned port visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. Beijing later reversed the denial of entry, but only after the Kitty Hawk had already set a course for its home port ...
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images
There’s been a lot of speculation over China’s last minute decision to deny the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and its escort ships entry into Hong Kong harbor for a long-planned port visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. Beijing later reversed the denial of entry, but only after the Kitty Hawk had already set a course for its home port in Japan and seas were too rough for the ship to sail into Hong Kong.
U.S. commanders have said that the decision left them “perplexed.” But some people speculate that China’s decision should have come as no surprise at all. The Chinese Navy had been conducting live-fire exercises off the Chinese coast using nearly 20 ships and several dozen aircraft. Sailing into Hong Kong would certainly have put U.S. ships (and their prying eyes) in a position that Beijing would consider too close for comfort. These exercises might also explain why the Chinese government had earlier denied safe harbor — a longstanding maritime courtesy — to two U.S. Navy ships seeking entry into Hong Kong harbor as shelter from a storm. It’s just one theory. Other possible explanations, as McClatchy’s Tim Johnson has pointed out, include continued Chinese anger over the U.S. lovefest with the Dalai Lama.
Whatever the reason, the result was that 8,000 U.S. sailors spent Thanksgiving afloat in the South China Sea. The real victims here, though, are the sailors’ families. Several hundred had ponied up thousands of dollars to spend a long weekend with their loved ones in Hong Kong. Nearly 300 families were already on the ground there when the Chinese decided to pull the plug on the visit. One wife of a Kitty Hawk officer says she spent nearly $2,500 on airfare and hotel rooms. The Navy had booked discounted rooms for sailors and their families. But when the port of call was canceled, the families were left paying full price.
There’s just no way to put a positive spin on China’s actions here. Live-fire exercise or not, the port visit was planned well in advance. Families were counting on it. As one Navy officer told Power Line blog: “[T]here is not much more China could do to hurt military-to-military relations with the US than a stunt like this.”
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