America expressed a formal protest to China because of refusal to permit a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier to make a planned port visit to Hong Kong.
"We are expressing officially our displeasure with the incident," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.
He said a Chinese military officer who is Beijing's defense attache in Washington was called to the department to accept the protest from a Pentagon Asia policy official. Morrell called it an "a formal protest, an official protest, complaint," for refusing port entry last week for the USS Kitty Hawk and its accompanying battle group of ships.
The Kitty Hawk, which has its home port near Tokyo, was forced to return early to Japan when Chinese authorities at the last minute barred the warship and its escort vessels from entering Hong Kong harbor. Hundreds of families of sailors aboard the Kitty Hawk had flown from Japan to spend a U.S. holiday weekend in Hong Kong but had to return home after China refused the port entry.
Later Chinese officials said the Kitty Hawk could enter the port but by then the carrier had left the area and did not return.
On Tuesday, two of the Navy's top admirals said that China's refusal was surprising and troubling.
"This is perplexing. It's not helpful," Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters in a videoteleconference from his headquarters at Camp Smith, Hawaii. He also called it distressing and irritating but later said it should not be viewed as "calamitous."
"It's not, in our view, conduct that is indicative of a country that understands its obligations as a responsible nation," he said, adding that he hopes it does not indicate a lasting blockage of port visits.