Thursday, November 22, 2007

China Denies USS Kitty Hawk Thanksgiving in Port

Thousands of U.S. sailors expecting to spend Thanksgiving in Hong Kong were still on their ships Wednesday, waiting for permission to enter Hong Kong waters, U.S. and Hong Kong officials said.

The USS Kitty Hawk and its support ships had been expected to arrive in Hong Kong on Wednesday morning for a five-day visit, but they were delayed due to problems with "administrative arrangements," the U.S. consulate said in a statement.

Hong Kong's Marine Department, which handles logistic arrangements for ships docking in Hong Kong's deep-water port, said Wednesday it had not yet received any documentation clearing the arrival of foreign military ships.

Foreign warships must get diplomatic clearance from China's Foreign Office in Beijing before entering Hong Kong waters. The documentation is then passed to Hong Kong's immigration department and then finally to the Marine Department. It wasn't immediately clear where the delay happened.

U.S. officials would not say how many of the battle group's nine ships and up to 8,000 sailors were awaiting clearance to enter Hong Kong.

Plans had been arranged for many of the sailors to have Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday with American families living in Hong Kong, Joan Meccariello, chair of the Servicemen's Guide Association in Hong Kong told The Associated Press.

However, Ms Meccariello made it clear that rumors suggesting this was China's way of protesting the many recent recalls of its products was untrue, and that the reported "One sailor he get liberty for every one container ship heading for Wal-Mart with poisonous toys for Christmas you let go in" may simply have been a poor translation of what the Chinese had actually proposed.

The 46-year-old USS Kitty Hawk, which is based in the Japanese port city of Yokosuka, is the only U.S. aircraft carrier permanently deployed abroad.

The diesel-powered ship will be decommissioned next year and replaced by the nuclear-powered USS George Washington.

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