Beijing denies request for Hong Kong visit by US carrier group

This file handout picture from US Navy dated February 21, 2007, shows the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis as it conducts operations in the Gulf. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2016
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Beijing denies request for Hong Kong visit by US carrier group

WASHINGTON/HONGKONG: China has denied a request for a US carrier strike group led by the USS John C. Stennis to visit to Hong Kong, the US Defense Department said on Friday, amid heightened tensions over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
A Pentagon spokesman, Commander Bill Urban, said a US warship, the USS Blue Ridge, was currently in Hong Kong on a port visit and the United States expected that to continue.
The Chinese government and its embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Urban said the request for the Hong Kong visit by the carrier and its accompanying vessels, which have been patrolling the South China Sea, was recently denied, despite a “long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong.”
The Blue Ridge, the command ship of the US Seventh Fleet, arrived in Hong Kong waters at 11:20 a.m. local time (0320 GMT) on Friday, according to the on-line log of the Hong Kong government’s Marine Department.
The nuclear-powered Stennis has been conducting patrols in the South China Sea, which China claims most of and where Beijing has sparked US and regional concerns by building artificial islands to bolster its claims.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the Stennis while it transited the South China Sea on April 15 to underscore US concerns about the need to maintain freedom of navigation in the South China Sea in the face of Chinese moves.
A wide range of US military vessels and aircraft have long routinely stopped in Hong Kong, a reflection of the “one country, two systems” formula under which Britain handed the global financial hub back to China in 1997.
The visits occasionally have been suspended in periods of heightened tensions, such as after a mid-air collision between a US EP-3 surveillance plane and a Chinese plane off China’s Hainan island in 2001.
The USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier also was denied permission to enter Hong Kong over Thanksgiving in 2007 but was cleared to visit five months later.


British PM May tries to break Brexit deadlock by winning more EU concessions

Updated 3 min 9 sec ago
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British PM May tries to break Brexit deadlock by winning more EU concessions

  • Only two months left till UK is supposed to leave the EU, but no final agreement on how exists yet
  • May will make a statement in the parliament Monday afternoon to present her plans on Brexit

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday will try to crack the deadlock over Brexit by setting out proposals in parliament that are expected to focus on winning more concessions from the European Union.
With just over two months left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29 there is no agreement in London on how and even whether it should leave the world’s biggest trading bloc.
After her Brexit divorce deal was rejected by 402 lawmakers in the 650-seat parliament last week, May has been searching for a way to get a deal through parliament.
Attempts to forge a consensus with the opposition Labour Party failed so May is expected to focus on winning over 118 rebels in her own party and the small Northern Irish party which props up her government with concessions from the EU.
In a sign of just how grave the political crisis in London has become, the Daily Telegraph reported that May was even considering amending the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
The Daily Telegraph said EU sources cast May’s plan a non-starter as a renegotiation of such a significant international treaty would require the consent of all the parties involved in Northern Ireland.
May told British ministers she would focus on securing changes from Brussels designed to win over rebel Conservatives and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, The Times said.
May will make a statement in parliament around Monday afternoon and put forward a motion in parliament on her proposed next steps on Brexit, though some lawmakers are planning to wrest control of Britain’s exit from the government.
After May’s motion is published, lawmakers will be able to propose amendments to it, setting out alternatives to the prime minister’s deal.
Parliament is deeply divided over Brexit, with different factions of lawmakers supporting a wide range of options including leaving without a deal, holding a second referendum and seeking a customs union with the EU.
Ever since Britain voted by 52-48 percent to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016, London’s political class has been debating how to leave the European project forged by France and Germany after the devastation of World War Two.
While the country is divided over EU membership, most agree that the world’s fifth largest economy is at a crossroads and that its choices over Brexit will shape the prosperity of future generations for years to come.
Supporters of EU membership cast Brexit as a immense mistake that will undermine the West, smash Britain’s reputation as a stable destination for investment and slowly weaken London’s position as one of the world’s top two financial capitals.
Brexit supporters cast leaving as a way to break free from a union they see as a doomed German-dominated experiment in unity that is fast falling behind the leading economic powers of the 21st century, the United States and China.