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CNN: Crew of Downed U.S. Spy Plane Destroyed Sensitive Information

Washington (April 4) -- The crew of the U.S. spy plane downed in China destroyed all sensitive information on board, Cable News Network (CNN) television quoted Pentagon sources as saying Wednesday.

U.S. sources said the 24-member crew had indicated that they managed to destroy at least some of the equipment and data on board the plane before it landed after Sunday's mid-air collision between a U.S. Navy spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet off southern China.

The US Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft landed on Hainan Island after being damaged in the collision. The Chinese fighter crashed into the sea and its pilot is missing.

The White House is considering calling off a planned visit to Beijing by U.S. President George Bush in connection with the incident, U.S. administration sources said.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell meanwhile rejected demands by Chinese head of state Jiang Zemin that Washington apologise for the collision, saying the Chinese reaction was inadequate and was not doing bilateral relations any good.

Bush reiterated his demand that China release the U.S. crew, saying that the accident had the potential to undermine Washington's hopes for a fruitful and productive bilateral relationship.

He said U.S. officials who were allowed to visit the crew had found them to be in good health. They were unscathed and had not been mistreated, he said.

U.S. media reports have said Washington was concerned that highly sensitive electronic intelligence-gathering equipment on board the plane is being closely scrutinised by the Chinese.

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