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Pentagon Issues Protest to China on Access to Hong Kong Harbor

The Pentagon has protested to China about the denial of access to Hong Kong Harbor for three U.S. Navy ships last week, and says China's explanation so far has not been sufficient. A military attache from China's embassy in Washington went to the Pentagon to hear U.S. concerns. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says the protest was contained in a summons to the military attaché at China's embassy in Washington.

The Defense Department is concerned that China refused to allow two mine-sweeping ships into the harbor during a storm early last week, contrary to centuries of naval tradition. In addition, China turned away the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and its support ships when they arrived at the entrance to Hong Kong Harbor the following day for a scheduled port visit.

"It is baffling. It is regrettable," he said. "And we have not to date received a sufficient explanation as to why it took place."

The only explanation so far came from China's Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, during a meeting with President Bush on Wednesday, according to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

"The president raised the issue about the recent aborted port call by the USS Kitty Hawk. Foreign Minister Yang assured the president that it was a misunderstanding," Perino said.

There has been no public explanation of the earlier incident involving the mine sweepers fleeing a storm. Senior U.S. navy officials have said that incident concerns them more because it involved safety, rather than a routine port call.