China has denied the US aircraft carrier USS Stennis and accompanying naval vessels permission to make a port call in Hong Kong.

It was not immediately known what prompted the Chinese action, but it comes amid growing tension between the two countries over Beijing’s moves to assert its claims to much of the South China Sea.

“We were recently informed that a request for a port visit by a US carrier strike group, including the USS John C Stennis and accompanying vessels, to Hong Kong was denied,” commander Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Friday.

“We have a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, including with the current visit of the USS Blue Ridge, and we expect that will continue,” he added.

It was the first time US naval ships had been denied permission to make a Hong Kong port call since August 2014, Urban said.

The Chinese foreign ministry told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper that port calls by US ships are decided on a “case by case basis in accordance with sovereignty principles and specific circumstances.”

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