U.S. Diplomats Meet With Spy Plane's Crew
|Join our discussion
WASHINGTON (April 3) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday
he wanted a speedy resolution of the U.S.-Chinese standoff over an American
spy plane after U.S. officials were allowed to meet with the crew. "I
hope that is the beginning of an end to this incident,'' he said.
However, a U.S. official who participated in the meeting gave no indication
that the 24 crew members would be released immediately.
Army Brig. Gen. Neal Sealock, the U.S. Embassy defense attache in
Beijing who met with the crew members, said they were in good health. He
said U.S. officials were working for their release, but gave no indication
when that would happen.
Another U.S. official, speaking on
condition of anonymity, said it appeared the Chinese government would
insist on an official U.S. government apology before allowing the crew to
A Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley,
expressed surprise that the crew was not freed immediately.
"We're not at all clear on why there is a delay here,'' Quigley
The U.S. meeting with the crew came three days after the
U.S. surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet, sending the
smaller fighter into the sea. China blamed the United States; U.S.
officials insisted the American plane was in international airspace on a
The incident heightened tensions between the two
countries. Chinese officials said the United States should halt flights so
close to China. U.S. officials said China was not following established
diplomatic practices by delaying U.S. contact with the plane's 24 crew
"I hope that this meeting will lead to the rapid release of all
of the members of the crew back to the United States so they can be
returned to their families,'' Powell told reporters.
"Let's get back to other matters and put this behind us,'' Powell
said at a news conference in Key West, Fla. He said he hoped the Chinese
would also permit the "rapid return of our aircraft.''
"I'm encouraged by the fact that the meeting is taking place. It
shouldn't have taken this long to happen. But, now that it has happened,
I hope this starts us on a road to a full and complete resolution of
"Hopefully, it will not affect the overall relationship'' between
the United States and China, Powell said.
He also said the
incident would have no bearing on President Bush's decision, expected
later this month, on the composition of an annual arms package for Taiwan.
Bush, who said Monday that China was not responding quickly enough
to U.S. requests, declined comment on the situation during a trip to
Wilmington, Del. But White House officials indicated he might have more to
say after the diplomats' meeting with the plane crew.
ambassador to Beijing said earlier Tuesday that the United States wants a
diplomatic solution to the standoff but would offer no apology.
"I've been a Navy pilot for 35 years, and I think the assertions
they (Chinese officials) described for the collision are extremely unlikely,
including where the fault lies,'' Ambassador Joseph Prueher said from
Beijing in an interview with CBS' "The Early Show.''
"We really want to work this out through diplomatic channels,''
Prueher, a retired admiral, said. Asked whether he would have a problem
apologizing for the incident, which has ratcheted up tensions between
the two nations, Prueher replied:
"As a matter of fact, I do have a problem with it and I think our
government would have a problem with it as well.'' He criticized "these
assertions ... from the Foreign Ministry and the message I have been
getting for the last two nights as we have been talking to the Chinese''
- that the United States is to blame.
U.S. military officials say the Chinese undoubtedly boarded the
damaged plane and examined its sophisticated spying equipment.
senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the
spy plane's crew said in a message as it prepared for its emergency
landing on Hainan Island on Sunday that it had begun destroying sensitive
intelligence-collection equipment and information, in accordance with
"The responsibility fully lies with the American side,'' Chinese
President Jiang Zemin was quoted by Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao.
"We have full evidence for that.''
The United States is demanding that China return the crew and
their EP-3E Aries II surveillance plane, which made an emergency landing
on Hainan after the collision with a Chinese fighter jet.
Prueher, interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America,'' said, "We
have every reason to think the Chinese have been all over the airplane,''
which is crammed with sophisticated surveillance equipment.
Bush gave no
indication how the United States might react if China delays or refuses
"Failure of the Chinese government to react promptly to our request
is inconsistent with standard diplomatic practice, and with the expressed
desire of both our countries for better relations,'' Bush said Monday.
The Navy late Monday released the names of the crew;
they included 22 members of the Navy, one Air Force senior airman and a
Marine Corps sergeant.
The EP-3E Aries II is from Fleet Air
Reconnaissance Squadron One, whose home base is Whidbey Island Naval Air
Station, Wash. It has a permanent detachment at Misawa Air Base in Japan.
The plane landed on the Chinese island of Hainan after it collided
with a Chinese fighter jet that was shadowing it. U.S. officials said the
Chinese fighter rammed the spy plane's left wing, damaging an engine.
China insisted the U.S. plane created the collision.
fighter that collided with the American plane crashed into the sea and the
pilot was missing. A second fighter tailing the American plane returned
"The Chinese must promptly allow us to have contact with the 24
airmen and women that are there and return our plane to us without any
further tampering,'' Bush said Monday.
in China still remains high two years after the mistaken bombing by an
American warplane of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
White House officials said Bush decided not to telephone Chinese
President Jiang, not wanting to suggest the White House was treating the
situation as a crisis.
On the Net:
EP-3E Aries II squadron
Pacific Command at http://www.pacom.mil/