Beijing has granted permission for a US navy destroyer to dock in Hong Kong, averting what defence analysts say threatened to be a deepening of the crisis in Sino-American military relations. Two air force cargo planes were also cleared to land later this month but a navy P-3 Orion aircraft, used for submarine hunting and maritime patrols, was denied permission. When 10 warships were refused permission to visit Hong Kong after the May bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, US military officials privately made it clear they were prepared to stop submitting applications, a military expert said yesterday. 'It was very important for the destroyer to be approved. It was a litmus test for Sino-US military relations,' said the analyst. 'If it was not approved, I believe the US would have given up on further military contacts with the Chinese.' The clearance for the destroyer USS O'Brien to visit from October 31 to November 5, announced yesterday by the US Consulate, is the first granted to an American warship with attack capabilities since May. Beijing had previously only approved American support vessels for port visits. The refuelling vessel USNS Tippecanoe visited last month and the ammunition ship USNS Kilauea was cleared but did not stop at Hong Kong due to maintenance problems, consulate spokeswoman Barbara Zigli said. US officials continued to express hope that ship and aircraft visits, which were unaffected by the handover until the Belgrade bombing, would return to normal. 'We view such routine stopovers as tangible evidence of Hong Kong's autonomy and hope that regular access to Hong Kong facilities will be afforded in the future,' Ms Zigli said. No explanation was given for the refusal to grant permission for the navy P-3 Orion to land. At least two other applications for the navy aircraft have also been rejected. It would have been on a navigation training flight, Ms Zigli said. An approved C-141 Starlifter jet would be carrying a delegation of senior military officials affiliated with the National Defence University. Another would bring supplies for the consulate. The analyst said: 'It may indicate the Chinese are being selective.'