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US Warships in Hong Kong Despite US-China Disputes

A group of U.S. naval warships has docked in Hong Kong amid growing tensions between China and the United States over trade and diplomatic issues.

The five-ship group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, arrived in the Chinese territory Wednesday for a scheduled port call. A statement issued by the Nimitz says more than 5,000 sailors from the fleet will go ashore for sightseeing and other activities.

The port call is taking place despite Beijing's threat to suspend military exchanges with the U.S. after Washington announced a $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, the self-ruled island China claims as its territory.

The visit also comes on the eve of U.S. President Barack Obama's meeting with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the White House.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He has called for greater autonomy for the territory, but Beijing has denounced him as a separatist.

Mr. Obama passed up a chance to meet the Dalai Lama last year before his summit with Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao. The spiritual leader's special envoy, Lodi Gyari, told reporters Tuesday that decision was a "setback" for the Tibetan cause.

Mr. Obama will hold talks with his fellow Nobel peace laureate in a private room in the White House, not the Oval Office, the president's official study.

China canceled a port call by the USS Kitty Hawk in late 2007 after then-President George W. Bush participated in a ceremony in which the Dalai Lama was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation's highest civilian honors.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.