Asia Minute: No Hong Kong Port Calls, Little Impact on U.S. Navy

Dec 3, 2019

China has protested U.S. support for demonstrators in Hong Kong. That support came in the form of a new law requiring an annual review of Hong Kong’s special trade status. Another measure bans the export of tear gas and other material to Hong Kong police. China’s response carries official anger, but the impact is mostly symbolic. 

China has suspended all U.S. military port calls to Hong Kong.

While that may disappoint U.S. Navy personnel eager for a colorful liberty call, the action does NOT have a major bearing on U-S regional strategy.

In recent years, U.S. ships have made Hong Kong port calls a few times a year—the last coming in April.

In August, street protests had been underway for several months, and China denied permission for two U-S ships to visit in August and September.

The government was concerned about how the visit might be interpreted by the demonstrators.

The state-run China Daily quoted “experts” as saying the ships’ presence would “send an extremely dangerous and wrong signal that their actions have the support of the U.S. military, thus stirring up new trouble and escalating tension to perilous heights.”

Up to now, visits were judged on a case-by-case basis---granted or denied in large part based on the state of current political relations.

For example, China cancelled a port call last year after the U.S. approved a new round of arms sales to Taiwan.

Beijing also says it is sanctioning four U-S non-governmental agencies for their support of protestors—including Human Rights Watch—although most observers believe those actions will also have little practical impact.

None of the measures will affect trade talks continuing between the U.S. and China.