• The move was a largely symbolic gesture, one with more diplomatic ramifications than military, US officials told Insider.
  • Pacific Fleet informed Insider that China has actually been rejecting port call requests for months now, with 7 denials in the past six months.
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China retaliated against the US Monday by suspending US Navy port visits to Hong Kong but China has actually been rejecting port call requests from the US for months now, US Pacific Fleet told Insider.

In response to Congress passing and President Donald Trump signing a bill supporting human rights in Hong Kong , the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Monday that China has decided to suspend the process of reviewing requests for US military vessels and aircraft to visit Hong Kong.

US officials told Insider that the move has more diplomatic than operational significance. "If we can't make port there, we'll make it somewhere else," one official said.

"We are aware the People's Republic of China has suspended US Navy port visits to Hong Kong," Cdr. J. Myers Vasquez, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, told Insider Monday evening in an emailed statement. He added that the US Navy hopes that it will be able to "conduct future port visits to Hong Kong."

China's decision to suspend US Navy port calls to Hong Kong over what Beijing characterized as "unreasonable" and "serious interference in China's internal affairs" appears to be a largely symbolic gesture of China's dissatisfaction with US behavior rather than a meaningful punishment.

China has been rejecting US Navy port calls left and right over the past few months.

China has, according to Pacific Fleet, rejected seven US Navy port visit requests in the past six months. The USS Green Bay and USS McCampbell were scheduled to make port in August, the USS Lake Erie in September, the USS Patriot and USS Warrior in October, the USS Milius in November, and the USS Gabrielle Giffords in December. The last US Navy port call to Hong Kong was made by the USS Blue Ridge, the 7th Fleet command ship, in April.

The city of Hong Kong has been in turmoil for the better part of the year as pro-democracy protests rage across the city.

After President Donald Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act last week, Beijing warned that it would "take strong counter-measures in response to the US behavior that interferes in China's internal affairs and undermines China's interests."

In addition to suspending port visits to Hong Kong, China has also decided to sanction various non-governmental organizations the country's government has accused of fueling the unrest in the Chinese city.

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