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.


UK govt insists suspension of Parliament was not illegal

Updated 17 min 35 sec ago

UK govt insists suspension of Parliament was not illegal

  • Government says a lower court was right to rule that Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was a matter of “high policy” and politics, not law
  • Opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament

LONDON: The British government was back at the country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, arguing that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament just weeks before the country is set to leave the European Union was neither improper nor illegal.
It’s the second day of a historic three-day hearing that pits the powers of Britain’s legislature against those of its executive as the country’s scheduled Brexit date of Oct. 31 looms over its political landscape and its economy.
Government lawyer James Eadie argued that a lower court was right to rule that Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was a matter of “high policy” and politics, not law. Eadie called the decision to shut down Parliament “inherently and fundamentally political in nature.”
He said if the court intervened it would violate the “fundamental constitutional principle” of the separation of powers between courts and the government.
“This is, we submit, the territory of political judgment, not legal standards,” Eadie said.
The government’s opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament just weeks before the country is due to leave the 28-nation bloc for the “improper purpose” of dodging lawmakers’ scrutiny of his Brexit plans. They also accuse Johnson of misleading Queen Elizabeth II, whose formal approval was needed to suspend the legislature.
Johnson sent lawmakers home on Sept. 9 until Oct. 14, which is barely two weeks before Britain’s Oct. 31 departure from the EU. He claims the shutdown was a routine measure to enable his Conservative government to launch a fresh legislative agenda and was not related to Brexit.
Eadie rejected claims that the prime minister was trying to prevent lawmakers from blocking his Brexit plans.
He said “Parliament has had, and has taken, the opportunity to legislate” against the government, and would have more time between Oct. 14 and Brexit day. He said even if Parliament didn’t come back until Oct. 31, “there is time” for it to act on Brexit.
The prime minister says Britain must leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal. But many economists and UK lawmakers believe a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating and socially destabilizing. Members of Parliament have put obstacles in Johnson’s way, including a law compelling the government to seek a delay to Brexit if it can’t get a divorce deal with the EU.
Parliament’s suspension spared Johnson further meddling by the House of Commons but sparked legal challenges, to which lower courts gave contradictory rulings. England’s High Court said the move was a political rather than legal matter but Scottish court judges ruled Johnson acted illegally “to avoid democratic scrutiny.”
The Supreme Court is being asked to decide who was right. The justices will give their judgment sometime after the hearing ends on Thursday.
A ruling against the government by the 11 Supreme Court judges could force Johnson to recall Parliament.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, meanwhile, said Wednesday that the risk of Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal remained “very real” because Britain had not produced workable alternatives to the deal agreed upon with the EU by ex-British Prime Minister Theresa May. That deal was repeatedly rejected by Britain’s Parliament, prompting May to resign and bringing Johnson to power in July.
“I asked the British prime minister to specify the alternative arrangements that he could envisage,” Juncker told the European Parliament. “As long as such proposals are not made, I cannot tell you — while looking you straight in the eye — that progress is being made.”
Juncker, who met with Johnson on Monday, told members of the EU legislature in Strasbourg, France, that a no-deal Brexit “might be the choice of the UK, but it will never be ours.”
The EU parliament on Wednesday adopted a non-binding resolution supporting another extension to the Brexit deadline if Britain requests it.
Any further delay to Britain’s exit — which has already been postponed twice — needs the approval of the 27 other EU nations.
Johnson has said he won’t delay Brexit under any circumstances — but also says he will respect the law, which orders the government to seek an extension if there is no deal by Oct. 19. He has not explained how that would be done.