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China: US Statements 'Unacceptable'

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - Chinese President Jiang Zemin's spokesman said U.S. statements on the spy plane collision were "unacceptable," demanding again on Monday an apology from the Bush administration.

Zhu Bangzao, a senior Chinese foreign minister official, told a news conference during Jiang's visit to Argentina that the Chinese are not satisfied by the responses given so far by the Bush administration since the April 1, incident over the South China Sea.

"Where is the responsibility? I think it's very clear," said Zhu, when peppered with questions at the only formal news briefing scheduled during a visit here. "The pronouncements of the United States are unacceptable to the Chinese people."

Zhu, speaking through a translator, suggested recent U.S. statements did not go far enough. Jiang last Thursday in Chile kicked off a 12-day Latin American tour by repeating calls for a U.S. apology.

Zhu did not state publicly why Chinese officials think the American response was inadequate. Nor would he elaborate on any specific statements made recently by U.S. Secretary State Colin Powell or others in the Bush administration.

Over the weekend, Powell had said the U.S. government was "sorry" for the Chinese fighter pilot still missing and feared dead. On April 5, Bush also offered his personal regrets at the apparent loss of life but the U.S. government has stopped short of apologizing.

Zhu said a Chinese investigation into the events April 1 is still ongoing and proceeding in accordance with international and Chinese law.

"The United States should apologize and response appropriately," Zhu.

Earlier Monday, Bush said in Washington that diplomacy does take time, but warned that the potential for damage to the relationship rises "every day that goes by" without a resolution.

Jiang, in the mists of an extensive Latin American trip, did not make any commment Monday on the spy plane standoff, leaving the foreign ministry official to respond to questions.

But last Thursday in Chile, Jiang repeated Chinese demands that the United States apologize for the April 1 collision. The U.S. Navy EP3E surveillance aircraft made an emergency landing on Hainan Island off the coast of southern China after the in-air collision. The 24-member U.S. crew continues to be held there.

In Buenos Aires, meanwhile, Jiang looked upbeat at public appearances Monday, but the diplomatic showdown over the plane collision has overshadowed his trip.

On Sunday Jiang spent the day at an Argentine ranch outside Buenos Aires. He flies Tuesday to Montevideo, Uruguay, and Wednesday to Brazil. Cuba and Venezuela are to follow.

Jiang's trip has been widely viewed as an attempt by Beijing to build support ahead of a vote at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights on the communist country's human rights record. With the exception of Chile, the other South American countries are members of the commission based in Geneva. The body is expected to take up the issue in a vote tentatively set for April 18.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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