USS Nimitz in China

“Anchored in Hong Kong Harbor. Just a couple days late for Chinese New Year, Gung hay fat choy!”

So reads the Twitter page of the USS Nimitz, the San Diego-based aircraft carrier.

The Nimitz has been in Hong Kong before. This, however, is no ordinary visit.

The arrival of the carrier and its battle group for a four-day visit comes amid what the government’s China Daily calls “heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing.”

President Obama met today with the Dalai Lama and his administration plans to sell $6 billion in arms to Taiwan. Both are objectionable to China, which has threatened to sever military contacts.

A Beijing-based expert on international studies tells China Daily said that the fact that the Nimitz is in Hong Kong is evidence of “a strong signal” sent by China to the US of its sincerity in developing bilateral relations.

Iran’s PressTV sees the Nimitz visit as a sign that tensions between US and China may be easing.

Others still sense tension.

US Navy brass typically honor their hosts at parties during port calls, but The South China Morning Post reported that the chiefs at the local garrison of the People’s Liberation Army are largely ditching the ceremonial tours and parties in an “apparent snub.”

To protest missile sales to Taiwan, China abruptly withdrew permission for a 2007 visit from the USS Kitty Hawk.

Five months in the Persian Gulf apparently make for thirsty sailors. Some 5,000 crew from the Nimitz, USS Pickney, USS Chosin, USS Sampson and USS Rentz are expected to drop $1 million at local bars and restaurants, according to the Hong Kong Standard.

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