Tuesday, August 17, 1999

U.S. Navy oiler
cleared to dock
in Hong Kong

By Gregg K. Kakesako


The Chinese government has decided to allow a Navy oiler to visit Hong Kong in early September.

This will be the first U.S. military vessel to dock in Hong Kong since Beijing suspended port visitation privileges after NATO's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May.

Since then, applications of eight warships have been rejected.

But a U.S. Air Force jet carrying a delegation of congressmen was granted permission to land in Hong Kong tomorrow. Since the May 7 NATO bombing, only one other Air Force cargo plane has been allowed into Hong Kong. Several weeks ago Beijing refused to allow a P3 Orion sub-hunter aircraft to use the airport at Chek Lap Kok. Until the embassy bombing, 70 U.S. warships had stopped in Hong Kong since its reversion to Chinese rule in 1997.

A Pacific Fleet spokesman said the USNS Tippecanoe, one of the Navy's 13 oilers operated by the Military Sealift Command, will stop in Hong Kong next month.

The 677-foot Tippecanoe can carry up to 180,000 barrels of fuel oil or aviation fuel. It is normally prepositioned at Diego Garcia.

Meanwhile, soldiers from Hawaii are participating in a 12-day command post exercise in South Korea which began yesterday. Maj. Christy Samuels, a Pacific Command spokeswoman, declined to say how many.

North Korea has denounced the exercise as a rehearsal for war on the Korean peninsula, warning that it will hurt relations with the South and adversely affect talks under way between Pyongyang and Washington.

The training involves 14,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea and 5,400 others brought from the U.S. mainland, Japan and Guam, along with 56,000 South Korean troops.

The exercise is one of the largest conducted annually by the United States and South Korean armed forces. It mostly involves computer simulations designed to evaluate and improve joint contingency plans.

U.S. Marines and sailors from Hawaii also are in Indonesia to complete CARAT 99, an annual training exercise with several Southeast Asian countries.

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