No Deal in Talks Over Air Mishap
China and the United States wrapped up two days of discussions over the April 1 incident in which a US reconnaissance plane rammed and destroyed a Chinese fighter jet, and other related issues by agreeing to remain in touch and decide through diplomatic channels when to meet next.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue described the talks yesterday as "frank and conducive to the mutual understanding of each other's stand," according to Xinhua news agency.

As the Beijing meeting ended, there was no sign of agreement regarding the return of the American EP-3 reconnaissance plane that landed at a military airfield on Hainan Island without China's permission. Nor was there any deal on China's demand that the United States end surveillance flights near its coast.

The chief US negotiator described the second day of talks as "productive."

"We covered all the items that were on the agenda, and I found today's session to be productive," said US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Peter F. Verga said.

Zhang didn't respond to repeated questions about whether China had discussed the return of the plane. She said talking about "related issues" would be difficult before clearing up questions about the collision.

She said the plane's fate will be determined by the outcome of China's investigation.

China wants the United States to take the blame for its plane's collision with the Chinese fighter jet, whose pilot is missing and presumed dead.

Chief Chinese negotiator Lu Shumin said that the basic cause of the incident is that the United States, disregarding solemn representations by the Chinese side on many occasions, has for many years frequently conducted reconnaissance flights in the airspace close to Chinese coastal areas.

"The US should bear full responsibility for the incident," Lu said, stressing that China demands that the US make explanations to the Chinese government and people, stop reconnaissance flights in the airspace close to Chinese coastal areas and take effective measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

The Chinese side hopes that a proper solution will be found to the incident and does not want to see any further harm on Sino-US relations due to the suspension of the issue, Lu told the U.S team. And the Chinese side holds that it relies crucially on the US side as to whether such a hope will be realized.

The US must fully understand the seriousness of this incident, treat the solemn stand and demand of China with sincerity, take a practical and constructive stance and make an active response to the request of the Chinese side, in order to find a proper solution to the incident, he said.

Spokeswoman Zhang showed reporters video footage that documented "dangerous and aggressive" flying by US pilots.

The pictures showed US fighter jets flying within sight of Chinese planes. At times the planes came within a few wingspans of each other. At one stage, an American pilot was seen taking a picture from the plane's cockpit.

Zhang said the tape was shot last year off the Chinese coast but did not say when or where, or what Chinese planes were involved.

She also showed a computer simulation showing a plane meant to be the EP-3E turning into the path of the Chinese jet, ending with double impacts between the two. The graphic illustrated testimony given by a second Chinese fighter pilot at the scene of the collision.

Pilot Zhao Yu has said that the Chinese planes were flying 400 meters from the American spy plane when the EP-3E flew into it.

eastday.com (04/20/2001)


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