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One is exercising "right", the other is enforcing law.
Not as simple. Precisely because it was a navy destroyer, not a CG vessel.
While CG isn't exactly in a good position to enforce law against a warship, interaction between warships has a different meaning and "flavour": enforcing sovereignty.
This difference may sound subtle, but its actually quite crucial from international prospective.
Sep 26, 2018
China cancels US warship visit to Hong Kong amid military sanction backlash
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while now
USS Ronald Reagan arrives in Hong Kong after dual-carrier ops in Philippine Sea
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A US Navy carrier strike group centered around the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) arrived in Hong Kong for a scheduled port visit on November 21.

The arrival of Ronald Reagan to Hong Kong follows China’s refusal to allow amphibious assault ship USS Wasp to visit the city in September this year.

The carrier strike group composed of CVN 76, guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis D. Wilbur (DDG 54) anchored in Hong Kong Harbor for sporting competitions, community relations projects, and tours.

“Hong Kong is always an incredible port visit and I’m glad that the officers and Sailors of Carrier Strike Group 5 will have the chance to enjoy the culture, vitality and diversity of this great city,” said Rear Adm. Karl O. Thomas, commander Carrier Strike Group 5. “The abundant growth and prosperity that surrounds us in Hong Kong is what the United States Seventh Fleet seeks to preserve for all nations in this important region.”

USS Ronald Reagan arrived in Hong Kong after conducting dual carrier operations in the Philippine Sea with USS John C. Stennis
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The US Navy has a long tradition of conducting port visits in Hong Kong and the USS Ronald Reagan last visited Hong Kong in October 2017. China denies port visits for US Navy vessels in times of heightened tensions. In September this year, USS Wasp was denied a port visit amid a trading dispute between the two countries. In 2016, aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis was not allowed to visit Hong Kong over disputes with South China Sea territorial claims.
Oct 31, 2018
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China Expects U.S. Navy To Transit Taiwan Strait Again Soon

to be watched from my comfortable chair
U.S. Guided-Missile Destroyer, Oiler Transit Taiwan Strait
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An Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and a Henry Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler sailed through the Taiwan Strait Wednesday, in what the Navy called a routine transit.

“USS Stockdale (DDG-106) and USNS Pecos (T-AO-197) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait Transit on Nov. 28 (local time), in accordance with international law,” Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesperson, told USNI News in an email. “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

China routinely complains about U.S. military transits. Beijing says sailing through the region infringes on China’s sovereignty. Along with the roughly 110-mile-wide Taiwan Strait, China also claims several reefs and artificial islands in the South China Sea as part of its sovereign territory, claims not always supported by international law.

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, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) transited the Taiwan Strait with no incidents, according to Pentagon officials.

However, shortly after the October passage, Chinese officials hinted they would defend their territory and expected future U.S. Navy transits of the Taiwan Strait.

“We have noticed related reports. China’s position on Taiwan and the South China Sea remains unchanged. The Chinese military’s determination to safeguard national sovereignty and regional peace and stability is rock-solid,” Senior Col. Wu Qian, the director general of the Information Office of China’s Ministry of National Defense, said a month ago according to
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of his monthly press briefing.

Following Wednesday’s transit, Navy officials did not report any significant interactions with Chinese Navy ships. The Oct. 22 transit also occurred without incident.

At the end of
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, though, a Luyang-class destroyer steamed on a near-collision-course with USS Decatur (DDG-73) as both ships traveled near the Gaven Reef. In this case, Decatur was finishing a Freedom of Navigation Operation in the area past some high-tide elevations.