FM Spokesman: US Should Stop Reconnaissance Flights Along China's Coast

China said its spy plane dispute with Washington had yet to be resolved and it repeated demands for an end to US surveillance flights that it said threatened its national security.

"Up to now, we have to say that this incident is not closed," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao told reporters in Caracas at the end of a three-day visit to Venezuela by China's President Jiang Zemin.

Zhu was speaking on the eve of high-level US-Chinese talks in Beijing on the April 1 mid-air collision between a US spy plane and a Chinese jet that was monitoring it. The Chinese pilot was killed, and the US aircraft made an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island.

"We are going to demand that the U.S. side gives us an explanation and also that they halt the surveillance flights over Chinese coasts, so that by doing so they stop threatening China's national security," Zhu said.

The U.S. Navy EP-3 intelligence-gathering plane caused the collision by turning into the path of the Chinese fighter, Zhu said. However, Washington says it was the Chinese jet that flew into the American aircraft.

Zhu also stressed that the damaged U.S. plane had landed on Hainan without permission.

"We can call these a series of actions by the U.S. side which violated international law and the internal laws of our country," the Chinese spokesman added. His comments were translated into Spanish by an interpreter.

The midair collision triggered a diplomatic stand-off between Beijing and Washington that was only partially defused when China released the 24 crew members of the US plane after 11 days. But both sides have since stepped up their mutual recriminations.

The Chinese spokesman criticized "very irresponsible" statements by high-ranking U.S. officials over the last few days in relation to the plane incident.

Without being specific, he said these declarations "ignored our demands and confused what is true and what is false".

Despite the strong tone of his comments, Zhu also said China gave "a lot of importance" to developing relations with the United States and also wanted to improve those ties.

But he firmly restated China's demand that Washington take "full responsibility" for the collision and reiterated Beijing's intention to carry out a thorough investigation following Chinese and international law.

The fate of the US plane, which is still on Hainan island, would depend on the outcome of this inquiry, he added. Washington has demanded that its aircraft be returned.

(chinadaily.com.cn 04/18/2001)


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