|Satellite photo of Lingshui Airfield taken April
10 of Navy's EP-3.
( Photo Credit: SpaceImaging.com).
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U.S. to press for prompt return of surveillance
WASHINGTON (AP) - American negotiators will press for prompt
return of a detained Navy surveillance plane and discuss causes of
its collision with a Chinese fighter jet when they meet with Chinese
officials Wednesday in Beijing.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Chinese government
advised Washington ``they intend to take a nonpolemical and straightforward
approach'' to the meeting.
``We look forward to that,'' Boucher said.
``We have made quite clear that we think that a productive meeting
can set the basis for our further relationship. On the other hand,
a polemical meeting would give us some indication of how they might
or might not intend to proceed with the relationship,'' he said.
The U.S. delegation will insist on prompt return of the plane and
discuss what caused the incident and how to avoid future collisions,
White House spokesman Air Fleischer told reporters: ``You can expect
some forthright conversations about those flights and about what took
The EP-3E aircraft was seized by Chinese authorities after it made
an emergency landing April 1 on Hainan island in southern China. The
crew was released last week after protracted negotiations during which
the administration said it was ``very sorry'' that the Chinese pilot
was lost and the crippled plane made an emergency landing without
There have been no U.S. surveillance flights since, but White House
and State Department officials said they would be resumed. President
George W. Bush is awaiting a recommendation from Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld on the flights, Fleischer said.
``The United States will always reserve the right to operate over
international waters and international airspace to protect the needs
of our neighbors, promote regional stability and secure peace, which
is why our nation and many other nations fly reconnaissance missions,''
China has insisted the flights be stopped and has challenged the American
crew's version of the collision. The Americans said their plane was
bumped by the Chinese fighter jet, while Chinese authorities say the
U.S. aircraft swerved into its fighter's path.
With U.S.-Chinese relations headed toward their lowest point since
the 1989 bloody Tiananmen Square protests, several members of Congress
have asked Bush to cancel tentative plans to visit Beijing in October.
Opposition also is rising toward renewing normal trade relations with
China, as is support for providing Taiwan with powerful weapons.
A delegation from Taiwan is due April 24 in Washington, Boucher said.
A decision by Bush on the weapons sale is expected by the end of the
month. Among weapons under consideration are four top-of-the-line
Arleigh Burke class destroyers equipped with modern Aegis battle management
``The question of selling arms to Taiwan is a separate topic, separate
subject,'' Fleischer said.
The U.S. delegation to Beijing is headed by Peter Verga, deputy undersecretary
of defense for policy support, and includes James Keith, director
of the Office of Chinese Affairs at the State Department, and Brig.
Gen. Neal Sealock, U.S. defense attache in Beijing. Joseph Prueher,
a retired admiral who is U.S. ambassador to China, will not attend.
Boucher said he did not know how many meetings would be held, but
suggested it could be ``a couple of days.''
A joint commission established three years ago to improve air and
maritime safety is to convene next Monday in San Francisco and could
become a forum for a tense airing of differences.
Meanwhile, Pentagon officials said Defense Secretary Rumsfeld may
recommend resuming the reconnaissance flights as early as Thursday
and probably will not prescribe fighter jet escorts.
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