China bars visit by US warship and plane

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 12:00am

China has refused permission for a US warship and military aircraft to stop over in Hong Kong in apparent retaliation for the mid-air collision between an American spy plane and Chinese fighter last month.

Beijing's denial of the visits is believed to have prompted the US to refrain from seeking approval for other warship or military aircraft visits to the SAR for the next two months.

It is apparently a departure from the approach adopted after the 1999 American bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, when China denied US military ships and aircraft access to the SAR but the Pentagon continued to apply for visits.

An American warship last docked in Hong Kong two months ago, leading diplomats to speculate on a change in Washington's approach to such visits, reflecting the deterioration in Sino-US relations.

The refusals were revealed by the US Consulate yesterday as a US official in Washington said that the two sides had struck a deal for the return of the crippled EP-3E Aries II spy plane. The official confirmed statements by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao that the plane would be taken to pieces then flown from Hainan in a giant Antonov-124 cargo plane.

The consulate said the USS Inchon, a command ship used in mine warfare operations and equipped with 10 helicopters, was refused permission on May 15 to dock in Hong Kong from June 23 to July 3. It also said a Navy P-3C Orion aircraft, similar in model type to the spy plane involved in the collision near Hainan Island but without the electronic surveillance capability, was not allowed to land.

A consulate spokeswoman said the request for the flight to stop over during a 'routine over-water navigation training flight' was made on March 30 - two days before the spy plane incident - and refused on April 11.