Pentagon lodges protest to China for refusing port entry for US ships

The Defense Department issued a formal protest to China on Wednesday over its refusal to permit US Navy ships to enter the port of Hong Kong on two occasions last week. "We are expressing officially our displeasure with the incident," the department's press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters. He said a Chinese military officer who is Beijing's defense attache in Washington was called to the Pentagon to accept the protest from an Asian specialist. Morrell called it an "a formal protest, an official protest, complaint," for refusing port entry for two U.S. Navy minesweepers and, later, for the USS Kitty Hawk and its accompanying battle group. Also, the Chinese foreign minister met with President George W. Bush on Wednesday and blamed the incident on "a misunderstanding." Morrell said that it is not yet clear whether the Chinese military officer will indeed heed the summons to come to the Pentagon. Morrell said the summons constituted the official protest, but he did not release the wording.