Last Thursday, Chinese authorities declined a request by the USS John Stennis to dock in Hong Kong, saying that port calls by US warships are approved on a case-by-case basis, "in accordance with sovereignty principles."
On Friday, US Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban expressed surprise at the decision, insisting that the US has a "long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong…and we expect that will continue."
But in an op-ed published by the state-run Global Times on Wednesday, the paper asserts that the US has no one to blame but itself for the incident.
"After Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, US navy ships continued their frequent visits to the special administrative region, but each must be approved by Beijing," the paper reads.
"Most have been given permission over the years, and there were only a few refusals, which happened when there was a chill in Sino-US ties."
It is felt that the "chill" refers to renewed tensions between Beijing and Washington over China’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago.
"Over the past few years, the Pentagon has played a series of tricks against China, creating quite an unpleasant atmosphere between the two sides," it reads.
The op-ed stresses that, while these tensions may be seen as mere "trifles," the "US' blowhard performance will turn out to be only a show for the media," and it is equally possible that Washington’s actions in the South China Sea could "prelude a major event."
"The US Pacific Fleet has now become the biggest source of such a pessimistic mentality for both countries," the paper states, adding that "the US abruptly started its menacing military deployment against China’s offshore interests, showcasing its military muscle by sending naval vessels and warplanes to China.
"Due to the severe strategic suspicions, military problems have unprecedentedly emerged between the two."
The Pentagon has launched provocative naval patrols within the territorial limit of China’s land reclamation projects. While Washington claims Beijing is attempting to establish an air defense zone, China maintains that it has every right to build within its own territory and that the islands will be used primarily for humanitarian purposes.
"The future is full of uncertainty. What the nature of Sino-US relationship will be going forward in the 21st century will be determined by the accumulation of many trifles that happened today," The Global Times suggested.
A highly contested waterway through which nearly $5 trillion in trade passes annually, China lays claim to most of the South China Sea, though there are overlapping claims by Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
The US has no territorial claims in the region.