Hong Kong, Feb 18 (DPA) A US Navy vessel has been given permission by China to visit Hong Kong Saturday as military relations between Washington and Beijing are warming again, a government-run radio station reported.
The visit by the USS Blue Ridge, command ship of the US Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, follows a visit to Beijing by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates last month, RTHK radio reported.
Beijing must approve all US Navy visits to the former British colony, which reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, and has blocked visits in the past at times of diplomatic tensions.
It is not clear how long the USS Blue Ridge, which has a crew of 1,400, will spend in Hong Kong or whether Chinese naval or military officials will have any official contact with the US crew.
The USS Blue Ridge visited Hong Kong in March but there were no meetings between US and Chinese officials because of a freeze on military exchanges imposed by China over US arms sales to Taiwan.
In November 2007, the USS Kitty Hawk with 8,000 servicemen and women on board was forced to turn away from Hong Kong when China did not respond to requests for permission to visit.