In the latest sign of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, a Navy warship has been denied a port visit in the Eastern Chinese city of Quingdao on Sunday, the US 7th Fleet revealed.
The denial is the latest from China, which has denied several such requests stretching back to late last year as the trade war has escalated.
"The PRC [People’s Republic of China] denied the US Navy’s request to visit the Qingdao Port," Commander Reann Mommsen, public affairs officer for the US Seventh Fleet, said in a statement to the press Wednesday that was picked up by the SCMP.
Mommsen didn't specify which warship had been denied entry, or say exactly when the request had been refused, referring all further questions to Beijing.
News of the blocked visit, first reported by Reuters, comes not long after the latest 'freeop' in the Taiwan Strait. The US has increased the number of such missions, intended to show its insistence that the Pacific remains an open waterway, as Beijing has sought to crack down on all of its 'wayward' provinces under the 'one country, two systems' mantra. Earlier this year, President Xi hinted in a speech that Beijing would reunify Taiwan with the rest of China, even if it meant doing so by force. And as pro-democracy protests continue in Hong Kong, Beijing is putting pressure on employers to stop their employees from participating.
A source close to the Chinese navy confirmed the rejection, blaming the state of the current US-China relationship for the refusal.
"Hasn’t the [US’s] application to visit Hong Kong just been rejected?" the source asked, speaking rhetorically.
Beijing has blamed the US and the West for funding some of the unrest in Hong Kong, which has dragged on for three full months now, a claim the US has denounced as "ludicrous."
Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military analyst, said the refusal should be expected given the worsening bilateral ties.
"Many bilateral exchanges are bound to deteriorate when countries’ ties worsen, such as during the China-US trade war. And now coupled with the Hong Kong unrest, many exchanges [between China and the US] have been downgraded," Zhou said.
Liu Weidong, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, echoed a similar view and said a visit from a US warship would be 'meaningless at present.'
"Now the US is very provocative...so China doesn’t want to welcome its warship," Liu said.
Ever since Beijing denied President Trump's claims about phone calls taking place between the two countries' trade delegations, suspicions about the prospects for trade talks have taken a turn for the worse, particularly after Trump announced on Friday that he would raise tariffs even further.
This came after Beijing announced retaliatory tariffs of between 10% and 15% on some $75 billion in US goods.
Washington also recently labeled Beijing a currency manipulator for the first time since the 1990s, raising fears about an all-out economic cold war.